We are all familiar with Rudyard Kipling’s childhood tale “The Jungle Book” set in the Seoni Jungle India, the exotic collection of stories plunges us deep into the colourful depths of the Animal Kingdom and into the life of Mowgli a young man-cub, abandoned and disowned by fellow man, lost, only to be rescued and taken under the paw of an otherwise fierce wolf-pack headed by wolf-father, Akela. Kipling’s story telling gives us an undercurrent of constructive morals, allegory and symbolism, combining entertainment plus knowledge and understanding of deeper political and social issues of his time through a story which is wrought wth the taste of indifference and a primitive idea of who we fundamentally might be underneath our civilised facade.
The social issues Kipling raised in The Jungle Book written in 1894 still bring strength and optimism in the political climate of 2016, as austerity brings deprivation as well as crime and social decline, raising issues such as child neglect and racism. Metta Theatre director Poppy Burton-Morgan has interpreted The Jungle Book with a visionary genius, her adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s most famous work, transformed into current day and depicted through the art of hip-hop, dance- theatre and narrative-circus, is rich in skill and talent, with an effective set, mood enhancing lighting and hilarious puppetry.
The amorous and high spirited character Baloo has been moulded into a beat loving bin-man, Shere Kahn a ghetto gangster rapper and Mowgli, introduced as a baby, separated from his businesswoman mother Messua. On parallel to the authentic outline, the wolves (a skateboarding crew) protect baby Mowgli from the claws and the jaws of Shere Kahn and raise the man-cub as their own. The performance follows Kipling’s original tale, breaking down scenes into distinctive stories that flow seamlessly into one another disregarding any hint of Disney and ‘The Bear Necessities’, solely concreting ‘street cred’ with flashy, well executed rap, jaw dropping break dance and hypnotising Chinese pole.
Attending the theatre with my partner Darren and daughter Ruby, I left with an intense mindset, as I should after any thought-provoking piece of theatre, I felt for my family and I thought of my own jungle and the pack I care for and protect. Drawing parallels from the book into my own life, I cavorted with the idea that we have all, at least once, been Mowgli, lived in his shoes, within his awareness of abandonment and separation and then further his accomplished feeling of inner strength in finding a solid and considerate group of friends who ultimately become the family that can understand, sympathise and help us accept who we really are. We have all crossed paths with sneaky snakes such as Kaa or clutched a drought in our individuality likening us to a herd of elephants and fought back against greed, distrust and manipulation from antagonists such as Shere Kahn. Like Mowgli’s story we can draw strength and acceptance from all indifferences through empathy and valuing that we are all products of our own experiences and that to respect similarities and opposition in others allows us to open doors and create unusual opportunities, work prospects and growth within our own spirituality and ingeniously enhances how we value the world. We need to evaluate how we treat unfamiliar animals within our jungle and learn to tolerate and obtain a variation of opinions and create a distinct code of compromise and mindfulness, otherwise described as The Law of the Jungle, The Law of our Concrete Jungle.
“And he grew and grew strong as a boy must grow who does not know that he is learning any lessons, and who has nothing in the world to think of except things to eat.” – The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling.
Long live the VEF and accepting each others worth is key Queen
All photography by metatheatre.com