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Watermill Theatre

Box office

01635 46044. www.watermill.org.uk

The Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Newbury, RG20 8AE. A map is here. A seating plan is here.
@WatermillTh

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Reviews of The Jungle Book

18th November to 31st December 2021

Review from the Newbury Weekly News and British Theatre Guide.

This Jungle rocks

The Watermill's magical Christmas production is filled with whimsical adventure and brims with energy

The Watermill’s magical Christmas production of The Jungle Book, adapted and inventively directed by Tom Jackson Greaves, is filled with fun whimsical adventures and brimming with energy from a delightfully multi-talented cast of actor-musicians.

A towering knotted tree fills the upstage area with a neon sign with the message: “You belong here, this is your place.”

Hanging colourful clothes and shawls adorn the stage and a handcart is centre stage with lit blocks depicting the city towers – all create a fantastical immersive world.

The charismatic Guido Garcia Lueches is outstanding as Tabaqui the Jackal, the mysterious storyteller who charms the audience with his winning smile as he relates the tale of the lost cub “looking for their family just like us”.

Karishma Young plays the vulnerable Mowgli in this gender neutral casting who is desperate to find out “who I might be – when I can’t see anyone who looks like me?”. She skilfully uses dance as a method of communication and establishes a warm rapport with the audience.

Mowgli is brought up by the wolf pack and then adopted by the jungle animals Bagheera the panther (Philippa Hogg) and Baloo the Bear (Rowena Lennon), who are the surrogate guiding parents to the young cub teaching the ways of the jungle.

Alexander Bean plays the stately councillor Wolf and Kaa the python and has a powerful singing voice.

All are trying to protect Mowgli from the predator killer tiger Sheer Khan, the suave yet dangerous Peter Ashmore.

There is so much to enjoy in this family-friendly production, including the peanut disco party with the mischievous monkeys living it up to the full. Dom Coyote’s dynamic music is both catchy and emotional. Jasmine Swan’s wonderful colourful set and costume designs are a delight and enhanced by Andrew Exeter’s emotive lighting.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable production, the perfect start to the festive season and richly deserved the enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Book soon!

ROBIN STRAPP

Review from The Times.

A sometimes over-earnest 21st-century take on Kipling’s tale

three stars
Rudyard Kipling, famously labelled by George Orwell a “jingo imperialist”, would probably be startled by this progressive new take on his collection of stories. Tom Jackson Greaves, its adaptor, director and choreographer, turns the adventures of man-cub Mowgli in an Indian forest into a 21st-century musical tale about identity, otherness and healing division.

Mowgli, beautifully played by the dancer Karishma Young, is represented as non-gender specific and referred to by the pronouns they and them. In its eagerness to put across its message of inclusivity the show is sometimes over-earnest. Its garbled narrative lacks drive, and fizzles out in a confused conclusion of political homilies and vague togetherness. Yet the performances are warm and beguiling, the cast of six actor-musicians powering through the plot’s meanderings with dexterity and charm. In Jasmine Swan’s design and Andrew Exeter’s lighting there is a green neon sign hanging in the branches of an overarching tree. “You belong here, this is your place” it reads. Our guide is Guido García Lueches’s charismatic Tabaqui, a jackal and a sort of ukulele-playing wandering minstrel. As Mowgli, Young doesn’t speak, instead expressing emotion through balletic movement. She’s mesmerising, and rather more eloquent than Sanah Ahsan’s strenuous lyrics to Dom Coyote’s folk-pop songs.

Aside from the occasional use of small rod puppets the community of animals are mostly subtly suggested with touches of fur or velvet — although Alexander Bean’s bass-singing Kaa the snake is costumed with drag-queen extravagance, with a glittering headdress and long taffeta train. Philippa Hogg’s silken Bagheera the panther and Rowena Lennon’s cuddly Baloo the bear carefully co-parent Mowgli; the monkeys are a troupe of chattering social media influencers. More ambiguous is Peter Ashmore’s Shere Khan the tiger, who enters playing slinky violin. At first this regal beast simply seems to want to turn Mowgli into a “cub-meat sarnie”, but there’s a brief and somewhat baffling sequence in which he has a nightmare about being forced to dance in a circus — a hint of a backstory that is then abruptly abandoned.

“How will I know who I might be/ When I can’t see anyone who looks like me?” asks one of the more memorable numbers, as Young’s bright-eyed Mowgli searches for human connection. It’s a shame that Jackson Greaves didn’t give that quest a stronger structure and a few more thrills. This isn’t king of the swingers, but it’s winningly sweet-natured.

SAM MARLOWE

There are reviews from What's On Stage ("a life-affirming quest for identity and a wonderfully inclusive seasonal show for all ages" - ★★★★); Musical Theatre Review ("a superb demonstration of how non-verbal communication can express not just words but thoughts, emotions and opinions" - ★★★★); PocketSize Theatre ("a very topical and clever adaption... an enchanting production for young families" - ★★★★).

Reviews in the Archive

Brief Encounter (October 2021)
Just So (July 2021)
As You Like It (June 2021)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (May and August 2021)
A Christmas Carol (December 2020)
Lone Flyer (October 2020)
Bloodshot (September 2020)
Camelot (August 2020)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (July 2020)
The Wicker Husband (March 2020)
The Prince and the Pauper (November 2019)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (February 2020)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (February 2020)
Assassins (September 2019)
Kiss Me, Kate (July 2019)
Our Church (June 2019)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2019)
Amélie (April 2019)
Macbeth (February 2019)
Robin Hood (November 2018)
Murder For Two (January 2019)
Jane Eyre (October 2018)
Trial by Laughter (September 2018)
Sweet Charity (July 2018)
Jerusalem (June 2018)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (May 2018)
Burke and Hare (April 2018 and on tour)
Digging For Victory Senior Youth Theatre (March 2018)
The Rivals (March 2018)
Teddy (January 2018)
The Borrowers (November 2017)
Under Milk Wood (October 2017)
Loot (September 2017)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (September 2017 and on tour)
A Little Night Music (July 2017)
All at Sea! (July 2017)
The Miller's Child (July 2017)
Nesting (July 2017 and on tour)
House and Garden (May 2017)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Maskerade (May 2016)
Twelfth Night (April 2017)
Faust x2 (March 2017)
Murder For Two (January 2017)
Sleeping Beauty (November 2016)
Frankenstein (October 2016)
The Wipers Times (September 2016)
Crazy For You (July 2016)
Watership Down (June 2016)
Untold Stories (May 2016)
See the Box Theatre Company review of The Sea (April 2016)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (April 2016 and on tour)
Romeo and Juliet (February 2016)
Tell Me on a Sunday (January 2016)
Alice in Wonderland (November 2015)
Gormenghast (November 2015) - see the Youth page
The Ladykillers (September 2015)
Oliver! (July 2015)
A Little History of the World (July 2015 and on tour)
Between the Lines (July 2015)
The Deep Blue Sea (June 2015)
Far From the Madding Crowd (April 2015)
Tuxedo Junction (March 2015)
The Secret Adversary (February 2015)
Peter Pan (November 2014)
But First This (October 2014)
Twelfth Night (November 2014) - see the Youth page
Journey's End (September 2014)
Calamity Jane (July 2014)
The Boxford Masques - Joe Soap's Masquerade (July 2014)
Hardboiled - the Fall of Sam Shadow (July 2014)
A Bunch of Amateurs (May 2014)
See the Box Theatre Company review of The Canterbury Tales (May 2014)
Sense and Sensibility (April 2014)
Life Lessons (March 2014)
All My Sons (February 2014)
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (January 2014)
Pinocchio (November 2013)
Sherlock's Last Case (September 2013)
Romeo+Juliet (September 2013 and on tour)
The Witches of Eastwick (July 2013)
Laurel & Hardy (June 2013)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (May 2013)
The Miser (April 2013)
David Copperfield (March 2013)
Sleuth (February 2013)
Arabian Nights (November 2012)
The Tempest (September 2012)
Thoroughly Modern Millie (August 2012)
Boxford Masques (July 2012)
Ben Hur (June 2012)
Of Mice and Men (May 2012)
Love on the Tracks (April 2012 and on tour)
Henry V and The Winter's Tale (April 2012)
Lettice and Lovage (February 2012)
The Wind in the Willows (November 2011)
Some Like It Hotter (November 2011 and on tour)
Great Expectations (September 2011)
Radio Times (August 2011)
The Marriage of Figaro (July 2011)
Moonlight and Magnolias (May 2011)
Richard III and The Comedy of Errors (April 2011)
The Clodly Light Opera and Drama Society (March 2011)
Relatively Speaking (February 2011)
Treasure Island (November 2010)
Single Spies (September 2010)
Copacabana (July 2010)
Daisy Pulls It Off (June 2010)
Brontë (April 2010)
Raising Voices (March 2010)
Confused Love (March 2010)
Heroes (February 2010)
James and the Giant Peach (November 2009)
Educating Rita (October 2009)
Spend Spend Spend! (July 2009 and September 2010)
Blithe Spirit (May 2009)
Bubbles (April to May and September to October 2009)
A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice (March 2009)
Life X 3 (January 2009)
Matilda and Duffy's Stupendous Space Adventure (November 2008)
The Sirens' Call (November 2008)
Our Country's Good (September 2008)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of The Recruiting Officer (October 2008)
Sunset Boulevard (July 2008)
Boxford Masques - Knight and Day (July 2008)
Black Comedy and The Bowmans (May 2008)
London Assurance (April 2008)
Micky Salberg's Crystal Ballroom Dance Band (April 2008 and on tour)
Great West Road (March 2008)
Merrily We Roll Along (March 2008)
Honk! (November 2007)
Rope (September 2007)
Martin Guerre (July 2007)
Twelfth Night (June 2007)
The Story of a Great Lady (April and September 2007, and on tour)
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (April 2007)
For Services Rendered (March 2007)
Plunder (January 2007)
The Snow Queen (November 2006)
Peter Pan in Scarlet (October 2006)
The Taming of the Shrew (September 2006 and on tour in 2007)
Hot Mikado (July 2006 and September 2009)
Boxford Masques: The Crowning of the Year (July 2006)
Hobson's Choice (May 2006)
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (April 2006)
Tartuffe (February 2006)
The Jungle Book (November 2005)
The Gilded Lilies (October 2005)
Copenhagen (September 2005)
The Garden of Llangoed (September 2005 and September 2006)
Thieves' Carnival (July 2005)
The Shed (July 2005)
Mack and Mabel (May 2005)
The Odyssey (May 2005)
Broken Glass (April 2005)
The Winter's Tale (January 2005)
Arabian Nights (December 2004)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Whose Life is it Anyway? (November 2004)
Multiplex (November 2004)
Neville's Island (September 2004)
The Comedian (September 2004 and March 2005)
Raising Voices Again (September 2004)
Pinafore Swing (July 2004)
The Venetian Twins (May 2004)
The Gentleman from Olmedo (April 2004)
Mr & Mrs Schultz (March 2004 and on tour)
Sweeney Todd (February 2004)
The Emperor and the Nightingale (November 2003)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of An Ideal Husband (November 2003)
A Star Danced (September 2003)
The Fourth Fold (September 2003)
The Last Days of the Empire (July 2003)
Accelerate (July 2003)
Dreams from a Summer House (May 2003)
The Triumph of Love (April 2003)
Gigolo (March 2003)
Raising Voices (March 2003)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (February 2003)
The Firebird (November 2002)
Ten Cents a Dance (September 2002)
Dancing at Lughnasa (July 2002)
Love in a Maze (June 2002)
Fiddler on the Roof (April 2002)
I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls (March 2002 and March 2006)
Only a Matter of Time (February 2002)
Cinderella and the Enchanted Slipper (November 2001)
Piaf (October 2001)
The Merchant of Venice (October 2001)
Witch (September 2001)
The Clandestine Marriage (August 2001)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2001)
Gondoliers (March 2001)
Rose Rage (February 2001)
Carmen (July 2000)