Amy Lunn and Hatty Ashton as the mischievous Bandar-log monkeys – Photos © Julian Swainson 2019
One of the many delights of being in Norfolk during the summer months is the chance to catch up with the latest outdoor production from Strange Fascination Theatre. This enterprising local company can be relied upon to produce charming and engaging family friendly shows that often reinvigorate classic tales.
This summer they are touring with a newly re-written version of the Kipling classic set of stories collectively known as The Jungle Book. Featuring animals as almost all the characters these tales give an anthropomorphic view of the human world and our moral and legal dilemmas. First published in 1893 the Kipling tales can seem rather abrupt in their moral pronouncements, reflecting as they do a rather less sophisticated Victorian British culture over one hundred and twenty years ago. Yet they remain enjoyable and accessible to children of all ages with a fairly simple distinction between good and bad characters. The stories have been given new life by film, stage and musical versions many times over the years and many people will be more familiar with these than with the original book.
The energetic cast of five bring to life many of Kipling’s favourite Jungle Book characters. Director Simon Michael Morgan starts us off as the wise old black panther Bagheera. Daisy Plackett is responsible for the delightful design of the play, including the immediately lovable puppet version of Mowgli, who she also gives voice to. Mowgli is the lost child raised by the wolf pack led by Akela, helped by Bagheera and Baloo the bear (Hatty Ashton). Amy Lunn plays the wolf mother Rashka, as well as the slinky python Kaa and many other characters. Andrew James Deane roars his way into the jungle as the fierce Northern Tiger Shere Khan, who is determined to capture Mowgli and gobble him up.
Another threat to Mowgli comes from the mischievous Bandar-log monkeys, who like nicking stuff and generally creating mayhem. Keep a close eye on your valuables when they are about!
Although Mowgli is happy with his jungle family it has been decided that he should return to his human family and this show follows him on that hazardous adventure. There are thrills and spills and moments both frightening and funny, but nothing that most little children will not thoroughly enjoy and appreciate. The grown ups in the audience will enjoy the show too as long as their little ones look after them!
All five cast members are capable actors who build a range of believable and engaging characters who are immediately recognisable. They bring out the many positive aspects of Kipling’s work such as co-operation and co-ordination in joint endeavour, while avoiding some of the rather more bloodthirsty details of the originals. This creates a fresh, lively and relevant bit of theatre which is hugely enjoyable while also helping children develop positive moral attitudes about how we live with each other on our crowded planet. There is plenty of comedy and adventure to keep everyone’s attention focused and the show is the right length for the family audiences that attend.
So make yourself up a picnic basket, grab a rug or two and perhaps even a comfy folding chair to sit on and enjoy a lively show in some of the most glorious settings in the Norfolk and Suffolk countryside. Strange Fascination Theatre have created another winner with The Jungle Book which perfectly suited the historic setting at Hautbois Hall. This is the perfect afternoon to break up the long school summer holidays with a show that will delight all ages and get a good few discussions going long after the final applause has settled down. Take a child or two if you can, but go and see the show however old or young you are and you will not be disappointed.
© Julian Swainson 2019
Catch the Jungle Book by Strange Fascination Theatre Company at:
Catton Park July 20th & 21st 1pm/6pm & 1pm
Bungay Castle July 27th & 28th 2:30pm & 5pm
Hunstanton Heritage Gardens (by the chapel ruins, FREE SHOW) August 3rd 2:30pm & 5pm (just turn up!)
Holkham Hall 7th August 6:15pm (see their website)
Hoveton Hall 17th August 2:30pm & 5pm
The Grove Cromer 18th August 2:30pm & 6pm
Sheringham Park 20th August 6:25pm (see their website)
Tickets via: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/strange-fascination-theatre