One hundred years ago, Rudyard Kipling placed his collective work of animal stories into English literature, much to the delight of young and old.
While a treatise of human archetypes in animal form transformed over the years into every type of theatre genre, we now have a legacy of much-loved characters, which Aubyn Live Theatre has magically brought to their stage.
Written by English playwright Mike Carter, this audience-interactive musical, which has featured in the Guardian newspaper’s top five Christmas shows, is a vivid and enduring production.
Jordan Astridge used all his enthusiasm and energy to make the most of his character Shere Khan.
He was relishing his role as the evil tiger, and was matched by Anton Hosken as the chief monkey on a mission to rule the jungle. He did a brilliant job of providing evil intent with excellent energy and stage presence, along with help from a group of swinging monkeys played by Hunter Thorne, Charlotte Herd and Natalie Fourie.
Mowgli is played with tree-swinging confidence by Harry Burns, well-assisted by Michael Aplin as the very young “man cub”.
Rose Lundberg purred her way across the stage as Bagheera the panther, but it was Teri McCartney as Chil the slithering snake who surprisingly became a reluctant hero.
Kenzie Atkinson was Baloo, our heart-winning bear. She had some great moves and dispensed words of wisdom, along with some pleasant singing.
It would not be a jungle story without a pack of wolves, led by Reece Bisley as Akela the ageing leader, with Connor Morrison as Grey Brother, the treacherous opportunist. The ensemble played by Cassie Moys, Lexi Flett-Lange, Matt Skeels, and Alyssa New provided the pack muscle, along with some slick dancing and cheerful singing.
Amber Bisley as Kaa easily won the contest for the brightest costume, but doing double duty as Mowgli’s mother allowed her to bring some powerful sensitivity into the story.
Choreographer Teish Heywood has done an excellent job with her charges, especially in the ensemble numbers, helped through some imaginative costumes by Kendra Campbell.
Voices and projection reflected the hard work put in by the cast, while lighting, sound and the set were all executed to a high standard.
Embracing the modern realities of the commercial theatre world, Aubyn Live Theatre has taken on a show naming rights sponsor in Brayden Coldicutt, who grew up treading these boards.
He must be proud to see his old choral mistress Kayleigh Purvis bring her energy and commitment to the role of director, as she tightly moves this story through all its silliness, jokes and audience participation.
What: The Jungle Book
Where: Aubyn Live Theatre, St Aubyn St Hastings
When: September 23 to October 1. Tickets at eventfinda.co.nz