This time last year, I did a post about Riding Lights Youth Theatre and their performance of Inherit the Earth in the run-up to Christmas. The Senior Youth Theatre are back again this year with a new and exciting adaptation of The Jungle Book, being performed for three nights at the Friargate Theatre in York.
Those who have been following my film reviews for a while may remember the problems I had with Disney's version of The Jungle Book. I felt the Disney version needlessly sanitised Rudyard Kipling's classic stories, and rendered them episodic by the inclusion of more characters than was narratively necessary.
All indications are that this adaptation, which comes from John Hartoch of the Bristol Old Vic, will handle thing a whole lot better. It still contains the stories' most-loved characters, from the brave mancub Mowgli to the villainous tiger Shere Khan, but the production will have a darker, edgier tone with more emphasis being put on the physicality of the jungle and the underlying, all-pervading threat of the main villain.
Aside from my spiritual affinity with Riding Lights, I've always been impressed by the powerful physicality of their productions. While the language of Kipling's stories is often richly rewarding, much of the appeal of The Jungle Book is its setting, which is at turns thrilling and intimidating. Riding Lights have a knack of spotting young talent and using great teachers to mould them into something remarkable, whether in the Youth Theatre, Roughshod or the Summer Theatre School they run every year. In short, you will get your money's worth at this production, and then some.
The Jungle Book plays at the Friargate Theatre in York (where Riding Lights is based) from December 12th-14th, with all performances starting at 7:30pm. Tickets are £7 for adults, £5 for concessions and £4 for Youth Theatre members; these are available online here or by calling (01904) 613000. Whether you choose this show or either of the Christmas offerings I've talked about, let Riding Lights be part of your Christmas build-up this year. You won't be disappointed.