In Reviews

Wakehurst – Enchanting afternoons and summer evenings to savour…

I have always loved the wild gardens at Wakehurst, playing with my son amongst the trees and marvelling at the breath-taking scenery. Then of course, going to the annual family lantern spectacular of Glow Wild is a delight too but, up until now, I hadn’t seen any theatre productions there. 

As Jungle Book is based on Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale, I wondered at first whether this show might be just a little too old for my 5-year-old, but yet again Wakehurst have shown how inclusive they are with this refreshingly different musical adaptation of the classic*.

Jungle Book at Wakehurst near Brighton

I was soon making jungle sounds like “oooee” or “sssss” whilst my son was playing the full part with his furry wolf ears that were on offer on the way in! The interaction with the audience, be they 3 or 5 or 12 years old, was just brilliant and brought the show to life.  The music was not just singing but also made use of an accordion, banjo, guitar, double bass, oboe and trumpet. It was a musical feast!

Amidst the beauty of Wakehurst, this was the perfect choice of show for this setting. Colourful and vibrant, the humid English weather following the storm just made it more atmospheric and realistic. Sitting on the grass amongst the still woodland of Wakehurst, not a sound could be heard except the howls of the wolves and the trumpet call making the whole thing far more poignant.

Wakehurst near Brighton

I was particularly struck, not just by the quality of acting (after all the actors were all an experienced cast), but how well suited each actor was to each character - from the staring elegant panther Bagheera to the irrepressible, warm spirited Baloo bear to the magnificent, scary tiger – Shere Khan.

Jungle Book at Wakehurst near Brighton

As for the costumes, well, I did mask-making for my GCSE drama exam – it brought back memories of how long it took to make one seahorse yet there were so many at this show made with intricate detail…. astounding.

Jungle Book at Wakehurst near Brighton

I cannot fail to mention the Queen monkey - who thought Strictly Come Dancing costumes were good? Her flower power leggings with gold reflecting sunglasses, pink monkey ears and shimmering feather fur are a perfect fit for any Brighton audience (I like to think of us as quirky?). I wondered if she had shopped at Snoopers Paradise, the vintage flea market in the North Laine. The cleverest creative thing for me was the use of an egg shaker on the actress’s belt who was playing the snake which left an automatic hissing sound as she moved.

Jungle Book at Wakehurst near Brighton

My 5-year-old child does not like sitting still apparently in lessons! Well, I can tell you that he and the other children had absolutely no trouble at this show!

I was really pleased lastly that our eco system was referred to several times and the slant on this show was about man needing to take care of the animals in the jungle which is so vital for little people’s minds in the world we live in now.

This was creative genius! I conclude - I love outdoor theatre, I love Wakehurst, I love this production! A great way to spend the bank holiday weekend.

The Jungle Book has finished its run at Wakehurst but they have events on all-year and current & upcoming highlights include Nourish, Room on the Broom and of course the spectacular Glow Wild. 

Marta


*Adapted by Andrew S Walsh with original music by Guy Holden, Sixteenfeet Productions presented this production.

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Wakehurst
Parkland / Woodland Garden
Wakehurst autumn

Wakehurst is a beautiful botanic gardens located near Haywards Heath and managed by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Set in 465 acres of country estate, Wakehurst boasts ornamental gardens, temperate woodlands, a nature reserve, and an Elizabethan mansion.

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