Neil Duffield’s adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s children’s book is a smart, colourful and creative affair.
Directed by Derby Theatre’s artistic director Sarah Brigham, the production has a sense of community at its heart. This is achieved both through its use of a rotating roster of community ensembles, and by having British Sign Language and captioning fully integrated into every performance.
Outside of London, Derby has one of the largest Deaf populations in the UK (and is home to the Royal School for the Deaf), making accessibility an especially relevant issue for the local community. It works very well here, because in no instance does it appear to be an after-thought.
As Mowgli, Iniki Mariano seemingly has springs for limbs, bouncing around the space like an escaped Jack-in-the-box. Esme Sears is a very sleek, and often wise, Bagheera, and Dominic Rye puts in a very funny turn as the haphazard Sergeant Major.
A lot of the show’s energy comes from its folksy, string-filled musical numbers (enhanced by some strong vocals from the cast). But this does mean that some of the other parts of the performance feel a little too subdued.
Ultimately, though, this is a family-friendly treat that evolves the original story into a heartening plea to look out for all those individuals who find themselves roaming without a pack. It’s a good example of a modern update bringing out the best from a text that has the potential to feel out of date.