The timeless story of Mowgli the man-cub and how he came of age in the jungle environment is being re-imagined in a brand new production coming to Norwich Theatre Royal.
Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book follows the tale of the youngster who is raised by wolves in the jungle.
He also has to outwit the cruel and powerful tiger Shere Khan with the help of his animal friends including Bagheera the panther, Baloo the bear and Kaa the python.
It features a brand new score and script and aims to explore the universal themes of family, belonging and identity when it takes to the stage from April 10-14.
Taking on the lead role of Mowgli (above) is Keziah Joseph who trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. A winner of the 2016 Carleton Hobbs Bursary Award, she is a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company with previous performing credits including Kanye The First for HighTide, The Archers, Watership Down and Northanger Abbey for BBC Radio 4, and the Doctor Who audio adventure Cold Venture which was released on CD and download.
Starring opposite her as Shere Khan is Norfolk’s Lloyd Gorman (pictured left) who got his introduction to performing though the Norwich Theatre Royal Arts Course. He has appeared in the likes of Sunny Afternoon in the West End, the UK tour of Our House, many productions for the Octagon Theatre in Bolton, and Cinderella at The Garage in Norwich.
Lloyd is also enjoying the chance to come back and act on home turf playing such a well-known character. He said: “Everyone knows the Disney version of Shere Khan who is suave and sophisticated. For this production, he has morphed into a wannabe rockabilly with an orange quiff. He is a modern version of the character. I hope it is effective in that respect.”
He will be performing alongside a host of fellow actor-musicians to give the production added depth. “I think this really boosts the ensemble storytelling environment as well. People are playing instruments while in character and also at the back when their character is not on stage. There is also a percussionist there through the whole of the production,” said Lloyd.
It also boasts a strong creative team. The Jungle Book was adapted for the stage by playwright Jessica Swale, whose previous play Nell Gwynn won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2016. She said: “I jumped at the chance to adapt it because it’s such a vivid world but there is also so much opportunity to imagine the jungle afresh. Part of the book’s enduring appeal is that the jungle can be anything we choose.
“It’s a playground, a school, a hideaway, an adventure, so I’ve enjoyed exploring what sort of place this mysterious, delightful, sometimes scary place might be- and what better way to do that than with Max Webster, one of the most inventive and imaginative directors working today.
“I loved the characters as Kipling wrote them, but wanted to find new voices which resonate now- funny, bright, dynamic voices, with a little more wit, and greater diversity, in terms of place, tone, gender and culture. It’s a funny, heart-filled roller coaster of a journey which, I hope, will transport the audience right round the world and back again”.
The production comes from the Children’s Touring Partnership which brought the critically-acclaimed Goodnight Mister Tom, Swallows and Amazons, and Running Wild to Norwich Theatre Royal.
And its director Max Webster is promising something very special for audiences. He said: “The Jungle Book was an instant classic when it was written over a hundred years ago with its story of Mowgli finding his path through the jungle. Each generation has re-imagined this story as their own, and now Jess Swale brings it right up to date in a hilarious and action-packed version for the twenty first century. With wonderful songs by the jazz legend Joe Stilgoe, and packed with adventure, humour and magic, this classic tale is perfect for all the family.”
Enjoy a preview of the show below