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The Jungle Book is Coming to Nottingham Lakeside Arts

11 July 17 interview: Nicola Beswick

In a collaboration between Nottingham Lakeside Arts and New Street Theatre, The Jungle Book is coming to town. True to the Kipling score, and definitely not Disney, the production has an awesome new musical makeup. We speak to director of the show Martin Berry about what to expect from the bogger...

Why did you want to take on this classic, The Jungle Book?
It’s a brilliant story that touches us all. It has pathos, emotion and great fun in equal measure. It also has at its heart the story of a young man coming of age and a mother learning to let go. We all recognise something about ourselves in the characters I think. Also, for Lakeside, with its amazing pedigree of work for families and stunning natural setting, this is a great tale to tell here during the summer.

We're all used to the swinging old Disney tunes, so why choose this new musical score for the show?
New writing is the lifeblood of what we do as theatre makers. We had done five “published” shows before, and I felt it was time to take on new writing and to see if our model for making musical theatre at Lakeside could also incorporate writers into the development and learning mix. It has worked beautifully.

Tell me about the live music on stage...
It is a red line for me; music should always be live. There is something thrilling about seeing musicians doing what they do – hitting things, bowing things, pressing things, blowing things – it’s amazing. And, in a story about the jungle, I was clear from the start that piano and particularly percussion were going to be key elements of creating the world. We have a lot of percussion! Vibraphone, marimba (which is like a giant xylophone), glockenspiel, lots of drums, tubular bells, maracas, you name it, it’s in there. And it sounds great.

Macro alias: Imageright

What's your favourite number?
It changes day to day, although I have a soft spot for The Kiss of Kaa and Baloo’s Song; both are wonderful, character-driven numbers. There is also a central musical motif that tells the story of the two mothers. It’s a really beautiful refrain that we hear several times during the show including a really moving duet in act two.

And your favourite scene?
Again, difficult to choose, but as a lover of stage combat scenes, I do rather enjoy the final showdown between Mowgli and Shere Khan; though I won’t give away how it ends. It may or may not surprise you to know that Disney didn’t stick especially faithfully to the original; our show does, mostly. There’s also a great scene with the monkeys; in fact, two of them, which still make me laugh.

What's it like working with a community cast from Nottingham?
Complete and utter joy. This year has been about large- and small-scale professional productions around the country for me, and it has been so great to come back to Lakeside and work with such a delightful and talented bunch of actors. I was asked a while back what the difference is between community actors and professional actors. Actually, very little in all the ways that really matter: enthusiasm, willingness to grow, attention to detail and collaborative spirit. They’re brilliant.

Who is your audience for this version of The Jungle Book?
Anyone and everyone! That is another reason I wanted to take on The Jungle Book; it has something for the kids and loads for the adults too. I suppose I have always had an imaginary child in the rehearsal room, so in that sense it feels childlike in its exuberance but, in these dark times for the country, what better way to spend a couple of hours than heading into the jungle to be reminded about what really matters?

How will the audience feel at the end of the show?
Hopefully, full of that special, sunny feeling only a brilliant musical can give you. And hungry; there are a lot of bananas and apples in the show.

The Jungle Book will be showing at Nottingham Lakeside Arts from Wednesday 12 - Sunday 23 July 2017. Get tickets here.

Nottingham Lakeside Arts website


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