Akram Khan's Jungle Book Reimagined
Akram Khan Company
Jungle Book reimagined
A magical dance-theatre retelling of Kipling’s classic
In a near future world, a family is torn apart as they escape their homeland ravaged by the impact of climate change. Arriving alone in a deserted modern city, and with wild animals claiming the streets as their own, the child soon discovers unlikely allies in this strange new jungle.
Akram Khan Company’s new dance-theatre production is based on the original story of Rudyard Kipling’s much-loved family classic. Akram and his team reinvent the journey of Mowgli through the eyes of a climate refugee.
Featuring an original score, ten international dancers and state-of-the-art animation and visuals, Jungle Book reimagined is a beautifully compelling and vital piece of storytelling about our intrinsic need to belong and bond with others, and placing the importance of connecting with and respecting our natural world at its heart.
Jungle Book reimagined brings together a stellar creative team, with script by Tariq Jordan, dramaturgy by Sharon Clark, an original score by Jocelyn Pook, sound design comes from Gareth Fry and lighting by Michael Hulls. Transforming the stage into a magical world, diving into the myths of today, is Miriam Buether with visual stage design, whilst video design and animation comes from YeastCulture.
Age suitability: all generations of audiences from 10+
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Akram Khan's Jungle Book Reimagined ON TOUR
Our review on Akram Khan's Jungle Book Reimagined
Akram Khan's Jungle Book Reimagined - The Lowry, Salford - Saturday 13th May 2023 by Karen Ryder
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling has received many adaptations, inspired numerous new works, and had huge commercial success through Disney, but at the heart of each of these works is a story about abandonment, fostering, love, making your own family, and respecting different forms of life. Akram Khan’s Jungle Book Reimagined not only does this but takes things a step further to remind us that we should also be fostering our planet, the one we seem to have abandoned. All the familiar characters are there but they have had a modern day make over and come with a backstory that packs a powerful punch.
“We have forgotten our connection to our home, our planet. We all inhabit it, we all take from it, and we all build on it, but we have forgotten to return our respect for it.”
– Akram Khan
This sums up the vision of this immensely moving version of The Jungle Book. We are placed in a future world that has been decimated by climate change and our planet is flooded. A child is separated from her family amidst the chaos and finds herself stranded with a group of animals. But unlike the original, this story places the animals in a man-made world rather than the jungle, and as we discover the stories that brought them here, such as animal testing, capture, questionable zoo’s, enforced performers and such like, it forces the question, who here is truly the animal? Mowgli causes ructions of trust within the animal community as she is an outsider and a human too, who they have all learnt can’t be trusted. However, it is finally agreed that they will take her into their care. But she meets an unpredictable group of lab tested monkeys who have been surrounded by human kind for so long that they have almost become brainwashed into a desire to become one, rehashing snippets of jingles they have heard in laboratories. To them, Mowgli is the missing link who can finally teach them all they need to know to fully behave like humans, including the elusive power of fire. Mowgli is rescued from the clutches of the monkeys, but peace is not resumed as a hunter breaches their territory with little understanding or acceptance of this new formed alliance. He is about to disrupt the harmony they have created and so Mowgli must decide where her priorities lie if our world is to have a future. With the humans driven away, there are scenes of the animals claiming this human world as their own, taking over libraries, supermarkets, places of worship and government buildings. It is eerily reminiscent of what happened during Covid, when humans were forced to stay indoors and we saw animals take to the streets in unprecedented and surprising ways. It is a stark reminder that this is happening now. We are, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, killing our natural world and forcing animals out of their natural habitats in the name of growth and progress.
This production welcomes an exciting and eclectic mix of creative art forms to enhance, challenge, and inspire the dance. With the combined script writing and dramaturgy talents of Tariq Jordan and Sharon Clark, the idea of dancers moving to spoken word is something I have never seen before and is an interesting concept in developing dance as a language and form of communication that really works. The music by Jocelyn Pook takes you from hauntingly beautiful and moving to reverberating beats that vibrate your entire body with their power. It blends with glorious ease into the spoken word, and swells with the story just as the rising waters do. Gareth Fry has generated an immersive sound design that submerges and surrounds you from every possible angle, placing you right in the heart of the action. The detail is stunning, from the thunderous elephants right down to the delicate flapping of birds wings. But the piece de resistance is the projection of animation on two screens – one at the front and one at the back of the stage. This style of design and the way it was achieved is something I have never seen and it was superb. YeastCulture have created something special and it was clear from the start that the use of animation would play a strong role in the show. The opening sequence of the planet being flooded was emotive, powerful, and humbling. The storytelling was able to glide between the front projection screen where we saw Mowgli fall off her water raft into the sea. The back screen then saw a huge whale appearing, and dive further into the water, to swim back up on the front screen, catching a drowning Mowgli and pushing her up to the surface, which flipped to live action as Mowgli appeared on stage. The projected animations were also used to portray flashbacks or memories, giving a whole new element to the story.
The combination of movement, sequence and interplay between the dancers and the animated projections was incredible and I was completely awestruck. It enabled space to be reimagined, designing an immersive world quite literally around the dancers and played with depths and dimensions in an exciting way. It also meant that the dancers were able to interact with the animations, making this cast bigger than the ten incredible dancers on stage. And what dancers they were. Synchronised, sharp, fluid, balletic, powerful, strong, and gentle, their moves were hypnotic, intricate, and so uniquely stylised that it is clear to see why choreographer and director Akram Khan was made an MBE. These dancers are not only masters of their craft, but are masters of storytelling, entertaining, and of holding an audience in the palm of their hand. The multitude of animals were portrayed through emblematic shaping, thorough commitment to symbolic movement, and honed pacing through sheer body control and the perfect placement of every muscle. They emitted strength, hope, humour, and loss, making us feel every moment of their stories.
The character of Baloo was an audience favourite, with a fun nature and captivating dance moves. In contrast, we witness the head of the Bandar-log monkeys suffering an almost PTSD episode with distorted and jerky movements as he has flashbacks of the human voices who held him down whilst they experimented on him in the laboratories. During this section, we hear a mixture of jingles and broken news reports from the real world that include snippets of Greta Thunberg speeches and those all too familiar statements of washing our hands to kill off disease and avoid disaster. Kaa the python is emulated through a series of cardboard boxes descending in size and rhythmically controlled by the dancers, with the box representing the head glowing green from within. Again, this allows for dimensions to be explored when Kaa tries to constrict Baloo. The individual dancers are able to envelop Baloo in varying combinations to repeatedly show the python trying to restrict its prey.
The hope for this work of art, is that it will inspire and teach our younger generation so that they can take the reins and start to make the changes needed for our future, their future, and the future of our planet. Akram Khan’s Jungle Book Reimagined is a truly inventive performance that will entrance you and hold you in the moment, but also leave you with plenty to take away and think about. It is eye opening, captivating, and unique. A wonderful team of creatives holds hands with an equally wonderful team of dancers, as they reach out to us all with a message of hope for the future.
WE SCORE AKRAM KHAN'S JUNGLE BOOK REIMAGINED...
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