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Review of The Jungle Book at the Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

Its safe to say that I was probably missing the target audience for The Jungle Book by thirty odd years and going was more a plan of returning to the lovely little Looking Glass Theatre as much as attending a puppet come pantomine come kiddies entertainment show.

Having said that, The Jungle Book was one of my favourite stories when I was little (under five foot) and it was going to be interesting to see another spin on the classic Kipling tale. This performance was a sort of interactive Jackanory and the juniors certainly interacted. Especially once the puppets had arrived that's for certain, hanging from the poor puppets limbs on more than a few occasions. It was great to see them getting involved so much.

Our storytellers came in the form of purveyor of corny jokes and pirate fan David Heathcote and bespectacled librarian Leigh Souter-Smith. Until this production Leigh Souter-Smith for me had been provider of tea, marshmallow filled chocolate and when required coffee as front of house of the Looking Glass, so it was a delight to see a bit of thesp activity. And great form she was too as the sensible part of the duo of library staff and later explorer and reader of Mowgli's diary. David Heathcote in turn was a surprise as, until I was advised later, I had seen him at the Looking Glass previously. Such was his performance so different, I certainly didn't see the same shouty RSM of Killed (review here). A credit therefore to his performance.

The final human actor on stage came in the form of Brianna Souter-Smith as Mowgli. As one of the young boys in the audience cried "It's a girl!" upon her appearance, however it did not matter as she was a delight interacting with all the animals of the forest (I shall get to them in a bit) and coped well with the continued interaction of the crowd, particular one little girl who was literally everywhere enjoying the show.

So onto the animals, the wonderful puppets. You have to be a hard, boring old soul if you can't find endless amusement from silly looking, floppy, arm flailing, puppets. And hopefully I don't fall into that catagory as I found them hysterical. Whether they be telling the tale, or have a random child hanging off them, they provided endless amusement. My favourite would have to be the Animal-esque monkey and its long spindly arms. I could have been looking in the mirror.

The shadow puppetry on screen was also very clever and entertaining, as was the disembodied mask on the screen telling the tale. I think a couple of the little ones found this a tad creepy, but it was never too scary. Also the set was lovely and detailed, from a little library set to the bonfire and plenty of little nooks and crannies for the animals to appear from.

So, yes, it wasn't really a play for a late thirties man. However I enjoyed it all the same and quite clearly could see that the target audience really did enjoy it. If you have a five, six or seven year old-ish to amuse for a couple of hours, you will find no better value than going to see this little bit of fun.


Performance reviewed: The matinee on Wednesday 30th July 2014 at the Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton. 

The Jungle Book is on at the Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton until Saturday 9th August, 2014. Details can be found at: http://www.lookingglasstheatre.co.uk/

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