Jungle Book reimagined - Reviewed by Zac Fitzgibbon | Regional News Connecting Wellington
Akram Khan | Issue

Akram Khan
Photo by Camilla Greenwell

Jungle Book reimagined

Written by: Tariq Jordan

Directed by: Akram Khan

St James Theatre, 23rd Feb 2024

Reviewed by: Zac Fitzgibbon

Jungle Book reimagined is based on Rudyard Kipling’s beloved The Jungle Book but with a dystopian twist. Ravaged by climate change, Mowgli is separated from her family and arrives alone in a deserted city where animals run the streets. In this strange world, Mowgli discovers unlikely allies and learns the importance of listening to nature.

The dancers (Maya Balam Meyong, Tom Davis-Dunn, Hector Ferrer, Harry Theadora Foster, Filippo Franzese, Bianca Mikahil, Max Revell, Matthew Sandiford, Elpida Skourou, Holly Vallis, Jan Mikaela Villanueva, and Lani Yamanaka) are flexible and full of energy, each embodying a different animal through movement that emphasises and adds layers of meaning to the dialogue spoken. All members of the ensemble stand out in their own right yet work together to become one collective master of storytelling.

From a scenography perspective, the video design (directed by Nick Hillel of YeastCulture) is astonishing and I love the use of two gauzes to screen the vivid animations (rotoscope artists and animators Naaman Azhari, Natasza Cetner, and Edson R Bazzarin, director of animation Adam Smith of YeastCulture). This adds more depth to them as it immerses the performers between two panels of moving picture, creating a satisfying blur between real life and make-believe.

The sound design (Gareth Fry) creates a wonderful soundscape that truly transports us into director and choreographer Akram Khan’s dystopian future. The compositions (Jocelyn Pook) highlight key emotional beats in what is a sensational soundtrack to this captivating performance. The script (Tariq Jordan) is poetic and succinct. This multimedia show has it all.

Every element works together so cohesively to create a mesmerising, thought-provoking piece about our need to work with nature; to belong and to bond with others. We must be one with nature. This show is a warning of a world that could be if we are not.

I sincerely hope that Akram Khan Company brings more state-of-the-art theatre to New Zealand. This is one of the best productions I have seen. Make your journey through the urban jungle and watch Jungle Book reimagined!

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