LONDON (Reuters) – Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s famous fables, “The Concrete Jungle Book” offers a gritty outlook on life where tigers and forests have been replaced by homeless people and refugees struggling to survive in an urban jungle filled with drugs and knife crime.
The brainchild of British writer-director Dominic Garfield, who also plays the central character Mowgli in the musical, opens on Friday at Edinburgh’s famous Fringe Festival.
“The story of Mowgli, the feral boy trying to make his way in the jungle, we straight away saw a real resemblance in young people trying to find their way on the streets when they are homeless and have difficult housing conditions,” Garfield told Reuters.
To research the show, the cast worked with British homeless charity Centrepoint and talked to young homeless people, some of whom were refugees, about their journeys from places such as war-torn Sudan, to Calais, to London’s streets.
In the play, Mowgli is a homeless young refugee wandering through dilapidated tower blocks, forced to contend with adversaries like King Louis and the monkeys, who are portrayed as a street gang.
Though differing starkly from the famous 1967 Disney animated version of Kipling’s tale, this production does have musical elements: with high-energy grime and rap music.
The Concrete Jungle also addresses dark themes of drugs and violence on the streets. It is something that Joe Barnes Philips, co-director at London’s Highrise Theater that co-created the show, feels is an important issue.
“It’s the truth. This is what happens, it’s true, people get stabbed in London. So it’s just a way of addressing it,” he said.
Reporting by David Doyle, writing by Mark Hanrahan in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar