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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

The Jungle Book swings back to Oldham Coliseum

By Steve Cooke

Thursday 7 – Sunday 24 April 2022

This Easter Oldham Coliseum presents a musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s famous story The Jungle Book, a perfect treat for the whole family to enjoy, less fattening than chocolate eggs!

The Jungle Book is the first family show that the Coliseum has produced outside of the festive season for over a decade. The theatre is famous for its annual pantomime and is building upon this with another joyous theatre experience for all ages.

First programmed for Spring 2020, The Jungle Book was in rehearsals when theatres across the UK closed their doors on 16 March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.

Join Mowgli the man cub, his wolf pack, and his friends Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther in this classic coming of age story; packed with memorable songs, humour and brilliant storytelling. Can Mowgli outwit the cruel and powerful tiger Shere Khan? With the help of his friends, he learns the law of the jungle and confronts the dangers in his path.

Perhaps best known for the Disney animated version, The Jungle Book was originally a collection of short stories written by Rudyard Kipling in 1894. Kipling was born in Mumbai (then known as Bombay) in 1865. When he was five he was sent to England to live with a foster family in Southsea, but he returned to India when he turned 16 and became a journalist, writing poems and stories in his spare time.

Performed by a cast of seven talented actors, The Jungle Book explores the universal themes of family, belonging and identity.

Director Sarah Punshon said: “We’re all so excited to get our teeth back into this fantastic story. We were having so much fun two years ago: the adaptation is so joyful and funny, the songs so catchy, and Katie’s design so much fun to swing about in! I’m delighted that so many of the original cast have been able to come back; and thrilled to be working with Gareth and Sam as our new Shere Khan and Bagheera. It’s going to be a blast!”

The stage-musical of The Jungle Book was adapted by Olivier award winning writer Jessica Swale with songs by Joe Stilgoe and is directed at the Coliseum by Sarah Punshon, designed by Katie Scott, with Musical Direction by Tayo Akinbode and Movement Direction by Stuart Bowden. The design of the Coliseum’s production is a meeting of worlds, set in an ‘urban jungle’ playground upon which the cast will climb and swing throughout the play.

The cast features Tamara Verhoven Clyde as Akela the wolf leader, Kaa the snake and Leela the wolf cub, Ebony Feare as Mowgli’s wolf mother Raksha, Neil Hurst as Baloo the bear, Jason Patel as Mowgli and Tarek Slater as Mowgli’s wolf father Hiran and Mugger the monkey – all returning to rehearsals from 2020, plus new members of the company for 2022: Gareth Morgan as Shere Khan the tiger and Sam Yetunde as Bagheera the panther.

Tamara Verhoven Clyde plays Akela the wolf leader, Kaa the snake and Leela the wolf cub. Tamara is a recent graduate of East 15 Acting School.

Ebony Feare plays Mowgli’s wolf mother Raksha. Ebony’s recent credits include Josephine for Theatre Royal Bath and Egg Theatre, Jack and the Beanstalk at Nottingham Playhouse, Treasure Island at Octagon Theatre Bolton and The Winter’s Tale at National Theatre.

Neil Hurst plays Baloo the bear. Neil began his career in comedy as a song and dance act supporting the likes of Bruce Forsyth, Bob Monkhouse, Ken Dodd and Cannon and Ball. His theatre credits include the national tours of Early Doors Live and Fat Friends the Musical.

Gareth Morgan plays Shere Khan the tiger. Gareth’s credits include Peter Pan at The Dukes Lancaster, Draw! for Sketchy Nights and Those Who Trespass for HighTide Festival with Arts Ed.

Jason Patel plays Mowgli. Jason grew up nearby to Oldham in the neighbouring borough of Tameside, he studied at Ashton Sixth Form College before attending drama school in London. Jason’s credits include Benny and The Greycats at the Arcola, Peter Pan for Octagon Theatre Bolton and The Famous Four and a Half Go Wild in Thetford Forest for Eastern Angles.

Tarek Slater plays Mowgli’s wolf father Hiran and Mugger the monkey. Tarek’s recent credits include Beauty and the Beast for The Dukes, Lancaster, Fell for Edgeways Productions, Planet Caravan for People Zoo Productions and Down Ashton for Octagon Theatre Bolton. In 2016 Tarek was nominated for Best Actor at the Manhattan Short Film Festival for his role in the short film Hope Dies Last.

Sam Yetunde plays Bagheera the panther. Sam’s credits include: Stonehouse for ITV, A Christmas Carol for The Albany Theatre and a recurring role as Cherry in Justin’s House for CBBC.

Jessica Swale is an Olivier Award-winning British playwright, theatre director and screenwriter. In 2016 her play Nell Gwynn won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Alongside The Jungle Book, her stage adaptations include: Sense and Sensibility, Far From the Madding Crowd (Watermill Theatre, London), The Secret Garden and Stig of the Dump (Grosvenor Park, Chester).

Joe Stilgoe is an internationally acclaimed singer, pianist and songwriter. As a recording artist he has released 5 critically lauded albums, three of which have topped the UK Jazz chart. As composer he has written music and lyrics The Midnight Gang, an adaption of the David Walliams’s novel, which opened at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2018.

Director Sarah Punshon is Artistic Director of One Tenth Human, an innovative arts-science company creating interactive adventures, and was Artistic Director of The Dukes, Lancaster from 2017-19. She has directed at theatres including Salisbury Playhouse, the Watermill, Leeds Playhouse, New Vic Theatre and Theatre by the Lake; co-created innovative site-specific, digital and studio work; and collaborated with commercial producers on national tours. Her previous productions include Arthur with Daniel Bye at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Cinderella: A Fairytale, Peter Pan, The Three Musketeers and Aladdin for The Dukes, Lancaster; Educating Rita for The Dukes Lancaster and New Vic Theatre, Partners in Crime for Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and The Box of Photographs for Polka Theatre, which was nominated for the Off West End Award for Best Production for Young People.

Katie Scott is an award-winning designer based in the North West and an Associate Artist at Box Of Tricks Theatre. Her work includes the Coliseum’s production of A Skull in Connemara, Sleeping Beauty for The Dukes Lancaster, The Last Quiz Night on Earth for Box Of Tricks and Seagulls for Octagon Theatre Bolton.

Tayo Akinbode is a composer and Musical Director for theatre, film, TV, radio, circus and community projects. His recent work includes: Junkyard for Headlong Theatre Company; Dick Whittington for Theatr Clwyd and Sonnet Sunday, Henry IV pt 1, pt2 and Henry V for Shakespeare’s Globe.

Movement Director Stuart Bowden has been a professional dancer since 2020 working with the likes of The Royal Opera House, Punch Drunk, National Theatre and National Dance Company Wales. He works regularly for Bake House Factory as their lead performer, as lead performer for Z-Arts’s interactive shows and is also a regular judge for Manchester’s Vogue Ball at Contact Theatre.

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