The Jungle Book
The Pegasus Theatre
The Oxfordshire Theatre Company’s portrayal of The Jungle Book is energetic, light and colourful, if a little long for a play intended to be enjoyed by children. As the small boy behind me aptly observed about two hours in, “I wish it would finish now”. I have to say that his sentiment was shared – there is definitely a limit to how long you can sit listening to singing monkeys.
Visually, the performance was breathtaking. The stage was transformed into an Indian jungle with vines and vibrant colours to engage both children and adults. The interspersion of acting with dance worked very well; particularly spectacular was the representation of fire on the part of Selina Zaza, playing Messua/Bagheera/Raksha. Unfortunately, the incessant bursting into song was a little draining and repetitive, particularly as the calibre of the singing often left quite a lot to be desired, and there was an evident restlessness amongst the audience members as the performance circled around variations on the same two or three songs.
Peter McCamley (part of the Blue Man Group) as the beer bellied and, inexplicably, west-country Baloo was easily the most captivating actor to watch. He captured the attention of every child in the audience and his portrayal of the pompous Sergeant Major was genuinely quite funny. The part of Mowgli, played by Dougie Carter, was also strongly acted as he effortlessly balanced the two roles of man and wolf in his movement and behaviour.
From observing the younger audience members around me, I would conclude that the performance, generally, achieved its aim of ‘capturing the imagination of children and the young at heart alike’. Maybe not so much for those above the age of twelve.