Bolton School Junior Boys

Boys Produce Stunning Jungle Book Production

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With thanks to Mrs Katie Linas, a parent at our Junior Boys' School, for her review.

'Deep in the heart of the jungle, otherwise known as the Girls’ Division Theatre, a pack of wolves raise a beloved man-cub named Mowgli, until Shere Khan, the ruthless tiger decides that the boy is no longer welcome in the jungle. Here begins the musical and visual delight of Bolton School's Year 6 boys' interpretation of the Rudyard Kipling inspired Disney stage production.

The action begins with the talented musicians of the Jungle Book Band, pianist Harry Farrington, trumpeter Mateo Sprott and drummers Joe Duckworth and Ewan McCairn, all immaculately attired in their big band suits. Bagheera, the loyal panther, played by Harry Roach, and Baloo the Bear, played with humour by Daniel Linas, introduce the audience to the jungle animals, who then delight us with a mesmerising melody about the strange and marvellous story set under the skies of blue, in which we are going to follow Mowgli along his journey to safety.

The stage is indeed set with magnificent scenery, transporting the audience to the Indian jungle with its sights, sounds and beautiful colours. The fearsome hunters with their pointed spears, the tropical birds flying around the stage in their vibrant rainbow coloured feathers, joined by the elephants, monkeys, wildcats, wolves and vultures. We also meet our humans; the hunters and the shy child from the village, Shanti. Mowgli, endearingly played by Abbas Khambalia, does not believe that the jungle is unsafe until he encounters the slithering snake Kaa, sizzingly played by Aryan Nunkoo, and the five coils of his slippery body, dressed in costumes of bright green and adorned with cleverly painted faces. Kaa tells Mowgli that he won’t hurt him, but instead wants to give him a big hug, but we all know what that really means from a boa constrictor! Kaa and his coils dance sinisterly around Mowgli, drawing him in and trying to hypnotise him to sleep with a haunting tune, expertly sung and enticing the audience to also slip into the silver slumber. Rescue comes in the guise of Shanti, beautifully sung by Suhayb Pal and, on Friday night, by Tejas Neelam, gallantly standing in with only a few hours’ notice.

Shanti is a child from the Man Village who is secretly watching all that goes on, Bagheera is alerted and Mowgli is safe …. for now. Enter the elephants, marching with a hup, two, three four, complete with flapping ears and large trunks and led by Colonel Hathi, the militarily inspired Amir Gani. Mowgli tries to join but no man cub is welcome in the herd, so Bagheera continues his journey to the Man Village. Baloo the Bear, larger than life, joyfully strolls onto the stage and introduces us to the Bear Necessities. Mowgli is entranced by Baloo’s loveable and carefree attitude, as is the audience, who swayed in their seats to the memorable tune, enjoying the antics and the atmosphere.

The magic of their wonderful jungle home is then broken by innocent Mowgli being suddenly kidnapped by the grinning monkeys to be taken to their leader, King Louis, a primal and exuberant Seb Smethurst, King of the Swingers, the Jungle VIP. What followed was nothing short of a magnificent performance of “I wanna be like you”, sung by King Louie; swaggering and waving his orangutan arms, dominating the stage. He tells the audience he wants to be a man, not an ape and to learn the secrets to make his dream come true.

To the rescue comes the safe, calm hero Bagheera, whilst Baloo hatches a plot to distract the monkeys. Baloo, wearing a grass skirt, bursts in and joins the dance, culminating in a bouncing sing-off between himself and King Louie. The energy, spirit, fun and charisma between the two characters had the audience enthralled, clapping and dancing in their seats. Baloo’s disguise falls off and he makes a run for it with the monkeys in hot pursuit, until Shere Khan, powerfully played as a ruthless villain by Ethan Jones, makes his strength and terror known.

Baloo accepts the jungle is not safe for Mowgli, but Mowgli overhears him speaking with Bagheera and dejected, runs away. An emotional rendition of “That’s what friends are for” sung by the whole cast inspires the jungle animals to rise against the evil tiger and capture him so he can no longer intimidate them and banish Mowgli away from his home. Shanti reveals herself to Mowgli and he decides it is time to see if his future is in the Man Village. He goes with Shanti and her family to his new destiny.

The lyrics of “That’s what friends are for” are very poignant for the class of 2022, their families and school staff who have all endured the disruption and emotion of the Covid pandemic. The end of an era of primary school, the new exciting but daunting adventures ahead, leaving behind the safe, secure and wonderful haven of Park Road. “When you’re alone, who comes around to pick you up, when you are down? And when you’re outside looking in, who’s there to open the door? That’s what friends are for. And when you’re lost, in dire need, who’s at your side, at your side, at lightning speed? So, you can see, we’re friends indeed and friends indeed help friends in need. We’ll keep you safe in the jungle for ever more”.

The lasting friendships, the camaraderie, the fun, laughter, support and pleasure in rising to the challenge gave this end of Year 6 production the zing, zest and bare necessities to make it a resounding smash hit and Year 6, “I wanna be like you”, a fantastic group of stars reaching for a bright future. Let’s also not forget that there would no inspiring production if it wasn’t for the magnificent efforts of the production team, led by the Year 6 teachers Mrs Brisk, Mrs Whittaker, Miss Fletcher and Mrs Gould. Thank you all and to Mrs Toner and Miss Ormerod for their musical support, to Mrs Finlow and Mrs Chambers for their work with the Jungle Book Band, to Mr Kyle for the lighting and creation of the set, to Mr Deakin and Mrs Whittaker for the sound. Thanks also go to Miss Fletcher, Mr Winstanley, Miss Cox, Miss Rawat, Mr Minta and Year 6 for their designing and making of the sets and costumes, to Mrs James and Mr Winstanley for Y6 enterprise support, to parents Mrs Humphreys and Mrs Wyatt for their support with costume making, and to Mr Hough, Libby Hough and Y12 volunteers for the make-up.'

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