Preview: The Jungle Book

The Bubble: Why have you chosen The Jungle Book and how does it fit into your oeuvre as a production company?

Dave Spencer: Another Soup was founded on the principle that theatre is superior when it is created as a product of the ensemble, i.e. that all members of the production, cast and crew included, have equal input. We feel this means that instead of a one-sided representation, born purely out of a director’s imagination, which would only truly appeal to a few members of the audience, we can create a piece that will appeal to and affect everyone watching it, at least in some way. The Jungle Book truly represents this ideal. The play formed organically out of everyone’s ideas, with little alteration or faltering.

TB: Has the work been adapted by yourselves or have you used an existing dramatic adaptation?

DS: During last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, when we took up an adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, I bought a copy of the original text by Rudyard Kipling. I was immediately inspired by the representation of the politics of these wolves and the shift in reality that occurs when this ‘Man Cub’ arrives among them. I set about writing the script instantly, with an already strong vision of the puppet-masks that we would use. The Jungle Book was therefore, because of its particular genesis, born to be a Fringe show, and we feel that we have brought what is truly great about Fringe theatre to the Durham stage.

Like last year’s Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book is much a continuation on the same theme – the corruption of youth. We hope that we impress this point upon our audiences without labouring it. As well as this, The Jungle Book follows in Sleeping Beauty’s footsteps by using puppets and original (this time live) music.

TB: How are you going to be using the unusual space of Empty Shop for the show?

DS: The Empty Shop is such a great and underused venue on the Durham drama scene. It’s an interesting, quirky, and small venue – we only have an audience capacity of 20! You’ll have to come and see it in order to find out what we’ve done with the space but we’re hoping we’ve achieved something like Belt Up’s brilliant productions that are taken annually to the Edinburgh Fringe.

TB: How have you tackled the use of animals in the play?

DS: Physicality was very important from the very start of the rehearsal process. Of course, we had already settled on the idea of puppet-masks, but their specific design was still very much up to debate until only recently. I’ve been popping in every so often to watch their progress and, I have to say, Ellen Marshall and Bella Alexandroff, our props team, are doing a superb job!

TB: What is your favourite element of this production?

DS: Such a difficult question. I would have to say that the use of music, composed especially by Jo Turner, and played by herself, Rachel Morgan, and James Dow. It’s so atmospheric and will immediately whip the audience away from the rainy city we live in to a hot and humid Indian jungle. The accompanying use of singing is also brilliant. While this play is in no way a musical, song is used throughout to great effect.

TB: Why should audiences come see The Jungle Book?

DS: If they want an intimate, site-specific style piece of theatre, one that will grab their attention and immerse them in a jungle thousands of miles away, more than a hundred years ago, in a fantasy and stylised world where wolves talk and boys are raised by them but are corrupted in the end, then they should definitely come and see The Jungle Book. It is certainly not a production to be missed, which is why we’ve put three performances a night! And it’s only 45 minutes long, so it doesn’t even take up that much time!

TB: Is there anything else you’d like prospective audience members to know?

DS: Since we’ve got such limited seating capacity, I would tell everyone that booking is basically essential. If you want a specific time, then book online on the DST website. We have such a quick turn-around between performances that it’ll get very hairy if there is a full audience trying to buy tickets on the door.

The Jungle Book is playing at Empty Shop from June 13th-16th. Visit http://www.dur.ac.uk/dst/ to book tickets.

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