The Jungle Book is Chichester Festival Youth Theatre's Christmas show

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre are promising Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book this Christmas as you’ve never seen it before.
The Jungle Book director Matt Hassall. Photo Tim HillsThe Jungle Book director Matt Hassall. Photo Tim Hills
The Jungle Book director Matt Hassall. Photo Tim Hills

The classic tale comes in a brand-new adaptation by Sonali Bhattacharyya spinning into exciting, pulsating life from Saturday, December 16-Sunday, December 31 on the main-house stage.

Featuring original songs by Ruth Chan written especially for the youth theatre, it will be directed by Matt Hassall, who was assistant director on Shadowlands at the CFT a few years ago. He has also worked extensively with younger performers, making The Jungle Book this Christmas the perfect opportunity to combine the two.

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Matt is certainly relishing the uniqueness of the rehearsal experience: “We are rehearsing in the evenings or weekends over a much longer period of time. For a show you might normally get four weeks full time in a very consolidated way but this one over the longer period you do perhaps get more of a chance to think about the material and grow the show especially as it is a new show. We're finding out what the show is and how it works because obviously we're not dealing with tried and tested material and that's all part of the excitement.

“It was commissioned by the theatre with the idea of taking The Jungle Book and reimagining it for the youth theatre. The process has been going on for a year. Sonali was asked to re-imagine it. So many people recognise it through the Disney film or maybe they have read the book but the big thing for Sonali was to reinvent it for now, for a youth theatre production of 70 young people.

“In the story, there is so much that is universal and also specific about it, but really for Mowgli it's about finding out who she is.”

And yes, it's a female Mowgli. Actors in the principal roles will alternate performances, and both the Mowglis are female.

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“For Mowgli it's all about how she fits into the world around her and I think the idea of having her as a female Mowgli means that you start to look at things in a different way. She will react in a different way and I think that will make it really interesting.

“There's also lots in the book that is not in the film, and going back to the original source material, the big thing for Sonali was what to keep but I think one of the things that we are asking about the story is what does it mean. There are lots of characters that you might recognise but which are reimagined in other ways and again that will make you think and again I think the question is what does this tell us about Mowgli.

“Hopefully it will be full of surprises, reimagined in a different way, and working with a company of 70 gives endless possibilities for bringing the show to life in ways that you might not expect.”

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling will be on performed by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre from December 16- 31, adapted by Sonali Bhattacharyya.