Mowgli, the latest venture from Abiku Theatre, sets out to interpret Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book in what is certainly an ambitious attempt at reinventing a beloved classic. A project of love, Mowgli is directed, produced, designed, choreographed, dressed and starring Abiku founder Jessica Jane, with the adaptation, music and fight choreography coming from fellow cast member Joe Newton. Whilst in practice this jack-of-all-trades approach may have been a little too much to take on (as it would be for just about anybody), the sheer determination to bring this play to life cannot be denied.
“an ambitious attempt at reinventing a beloved classic”
Housed in a centuries-old tunnel built by Marc Isambard Brunel (father of a more famous son), Abiku hosted its audience in a venue of real atmosphere, evoking a sense of the claustrophobic jungle in which it tells its tale. The production took a more cinematic approach to its narrative, with each scene a different set piece bookmarked by a blackout, during which the ensemble transformed from one animal to the next.
Maximilian L’Olive’s Tabaqui and Joe Newton’s Bagheera injected the most life into this dark and oppressive setting, making full effect of the interesting acoustics afforded by Brunel’s unfinished pit. In all, Mowgli’s ambition is clear and admirable. This passion project could have benefitted from a voice outside of the cast offering some direction along the way, but what production wouldn’t? Besides, then it wouldn’t have been so imbued with the blood, sweat and tears that brought it to life.