Edinburgh International Festival: Dance, Jungle Book re-imagined, Festival Theatre, Four Stars

The Jungle Book Reimagined

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Mary Brenan

Four stars

The stage is set, even before the curtain rises with strident voices announcing an impending disaster. Seconds after the curtain rises, the stage is flooded with relentless tidal waves – vividly brought to life by YeastCulture’s animated line art – and our old world is gone.

It’s not just humanity that is struggling to survive. The animals, having lost their natural habitats, now shelter in the ruins of concrete jungles – where a lost little girl (aka Mowgli) finds herself at the mercy of a pack of wolves.

Mercy… As the gripping stories of Rudyard Kipling (from 1894) often reveal, man has not always shown mercy, let alone respect for nature. This undercurrent of mutual distrust is just one element steeped in ethics in Akram Khan’s multi-faceted dance-drama version, Jungle Book Reimagined.

A visionary creative team that includes composer Jocelyn Pook come together to create a cinematic flow of shifting atmospheres that virtually color the monochromatic staging while the voice-over narrative (written by Tariq Jordan) frees Khan’s ten extraordinary dancers to bring flexible expressiveness and urgency. the intensity of the characters and incidents.

If, at times, the story is too wordy and a bit tendentious, it nevertheless gives us the warning of climate change.

And in the second half, where the power-hungry Bandar-logs mimic Man-as-political-leader playing gallery, the frenetic physical movement communicates beyond words.

Kaa, the python, is a glowing-eyed cardboard box — a cunning echo of pretend child’s play — whose hypnotic dance enables Baloo and Bagheera to rescue kidnapped Mowgli. Khan’s choreography puts the Kaa in Kathak! Great.

Yes, there’s a gloom you won’t find in Disney movies, but there’s a passion for informing that has a lingering power beyond cuteness. And a reminder that — goodbye Mowgli and Greta Thunberg — we all need to make changes.

Gerald R. Schneider