Jungle Book Reimagined is the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from Akram Khan. In short, it’s Rudyard Kipling’s classic story of a young child lost adopted by the jungle, re-imagined as a post-apocalyptic tale told through dance and acrobatic performance.
This is a dark but modern re-telling of Kipling’s The Jungle Book, but it also completely over-hauls the meaning and message of the source material. Gone is original’s rambling message about social order, replaced by a more important message about the need for empathy, understanding and above all, action in regards to the ongoing climate emergency the world is currently enduring.
The production opens an explanation that much of the modern world has become flooded due to global climate change. This is done through projected line animation and dance. All of the actual dialogue is also produced as part of the show’s soundtrack and soundscape, leaving the performers free to convey their meaning through movement and dance.
The actual story follows familiar lines; Mowgli becomes separated from their family, though this time whilst escaping their own flooded home lands on make-shift rafts. They wind up on the shores of an over-grown landscape abandoned by mankind, and are discovered by wolves, rightly fearful of the arrival of man. Bagheera is big cat who escaped a cruel owner, Baloo was a former circus bear, the apes were experimented on and so on. At every possible point in the narrative, we are reminded as too just how much humans have abused the world.
The choreography and soundtrack are superb and powerful. Combined with simple effects and some clever staging the result is something meaningful and incredibly engaging. Some of the moments feel a little cliché; we get a boombox which seemingly only plays Greta Thunberg speeches for example, but it fits the feel of the story here.
Jungle Book Reimagined is a once in a lifetime experience. Catch it if you can.