Borrowing heavily from the original Rudyard Kipling text, Stuart Paterson's adaptation of "The Jungle Book" finds the bear necessities of the classic tale without overly monkeying around. The result is an at times serious piece without dramatic pathos which challenges the mind but largely the loses the heart. Indeed, any nine year olds without an MLitt in Victorian Literature might struggle to understand the script's language or subtleties in the director's vision.
Taking a green leaf out of Matilda's book, designer Takis has created a vivid staging of colourful planks and vine-like streamers, relocating the jungles of Indian to the jungle gym and reimagining the classic story in a urban playground. Whilst the design is immediately impressive, there is a lamentable lack of that familiar beauty of the Citizens' Christmas show, failing to match the inventiveness or finesse of previous shows.
Nonetheless, there is much to like in the casting of the show, if the materials which they are left to deliver, particularly in the show's music, seem needlessly trying to be progressive and hip. Elexi Walker is wonderful as Kaa the snake, a serpentine Winifred Sanderson of a woman who relishes the evil glowing in the character's eyes, slithering into the crowd and choosing an unwitting audience member to become her latest meal. Obioma Ugoala, too, is adorable as man-cub Mowgli's teacher, Balloo, bounding around the stage and looking like the most huggable thing in Glasgow. But the cast cannot truly rouse the spirit and, as such, the evening trundles along to its conclusion without music emotional effect.
Perhaps if this were staged in the summer, Nikolai Foster's show would escape the prejudiced expectations of a festive night at the theatre. Perhaps if Disney had not created such an endearing, though wholly different, version of the original tales, this show could be celebrated as a faithful adaptation of Kipling's most famous work. Of course, the glory of the Citizens' show is that it is different but even that hope isn't satisfied in terms of style or delivery. Instead, what we are left with is a show which feels dated and largely irrelevant to a Glasgow audience, especially one hoping for the usual fare of Christmas at the Citz.
The Jungle Book is at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, until 5 January, 2014