Bagheera and Baloo – photo from Echo Youth Theatre 

Echo Youth Theatre have an enviable record of producing enjoyable and well performed shows that help to develop the talents and confidence of their young members and this week they have taken their latest show The Jungle Book to the wonderful setting of the Maddermarket Theatre in the heart of the city.

The Kipling characters have become familiar over the years in many different versions and formats, but this musical play is true to the original Kipling book rather than the Americanised film version. The songs and music are composed by Acer Smith specially for this production and help to plant us firmly in the wild jungle.

Kipling wrote The Jungle Book in 1894 and the moral values of the play reflect the attitudes of the time, which will jar a bit with modern sensitivities. He gives us characters split in apparently simplistic binary fashion into good and bad, although some manage to redeem themselves in the course of events. The language is violent and sometimes threatening, but if you view the work in the same way as we might tackle a modern comic or gaming fantasy it is nonetheless an enjoyable yarn which retains its popularity over a century after first publication.

The accomplished young cast make it a lot easier to enjoy as they bring a diverse range of skills and talents to the stage. Thomas Hare is perfectly cast as young Mowgli, the child who takes on an adult level of responsiblity. Stolen from his human family by the tiger Shere Kahn (Kylara Pope) he is abducted and raised by a pack of wolves led by the wise Akela (Nina Murdoch) with the help of panther Bagheera (Libby Lumb) and audience favourite Baloo the bear (Lauren Jarvis) and she-wolf Raksha (Amélie Mobbs). They are helped out in their adventures by slithery python Kaa (Charlotte Sprot). Shere Khan is helped by evil sidekick Tabaqui the jackal in a joyously cackling performance by Heidi Robinson. Other cast members bring us variously the naughty Bandar-log monkeys, the wolf pack and even a few humans! They are well rehearsed and confident in their performances and together create a memorable and joyful show. There are lots of laughs as Mowgli gets through his perilous adventures, especially from the hapless Baloo and the bum-waving orange Bander-log monkeys behaving badly. The lead characters all give convincing performances drawing our empathy for their various stories and roles in bringing up Mowgli. For some of the cast this is their first show with Echo Youth Theatre, but they all have confidence and stage presence. Echo have marked the end of lockdown with a lively, well timed and thoroughly enjoyable version of this classic yarn.

The next Echo YT show will be The Little Mermaid next Easter, once again at the Maddermarket on the 6-9th April 2022, so pop the date in your diaries now. Meanwhile find out more or join the fun at

© Julian Swainson, Norwich Eye, October 2021