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Review | Jungle Book | Aviva Studios | 28/03/2024

With so many family shows dialling it in with minimum effort, Robert Wilson’s Jungle Book aims to break the mould. This is far from the Disney version, and lets remember the animated classic is merely an adaptation itself with the original collection of stories written back in 1894.This version proves that family friendly shows needn’t lack artistic flare in this beautifully brave, avant-garde reinterpretation.

This production is the first at Aviva Studios to utilise its fully accessible orchestra pit with a live band. CocoRosies music is fun, lively and versatile. Each member of the talented band got their much deserved (literal) spotlight mid show. It is however let down due to difficulties in more clearly hearing what is being sang. Being able to better tune into what was being articulated by the cast would have helped the audience better follow the narrative.

Costuming by Jacques Reynaud was mostly exciting and unexpected. Particular mention should go to Bagheera The Black Panther in a sultry velvet catsuit with a microphone attached to her tail, and Shere Khan the tiger dressed as like an extravagant rock star! Some of the other costuming, particularly the wolves, felt less thought out and could have benefited from a greater level of detail.

The show could best be described as some sort of fever dream, and this works to varying degrees of success. Although admiration for the vision and bravery should be given, it didn’t always have the pay off it intends. Whilst the monkey doing aerial work on a large tyre hung from the ceiling was exciting to watch, the relevance of this wasn’t clear. At times it all felt a little too whacky, making it hard to follow what was happening.

What cannot be denied is the stunning set design. Wilson has taken risks with the aesthetic and they have absolutely paid off. With a huge backdrop lit wonderfully in different ways against clever and varied set pieces, this show feels elegantly artistic. What elevates this even higher however is the fantastic lighting, allowing the audience to see exactly what the director intended at any one time. Whether that is in stunning silhouette or when certain characters lit more purposefully in colour for eagle eyed audience members to dissect in greater detail. It really is a visual feast which will transfix audiences of all ages.

Jungle Book is on at Aviva Studios until Sunday 31 March 2024.

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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