Manchester’s Altrincham Garrick Playhouse is playing host to a thrilling new production of 'The Jungle Book', packaged as the perfect treat for an Easter half-term family day out.
Many of us have grown up reading Rudyard Kipling's captivating jungle tale, watched the popular Disney version on screen and perhaps also recall lyricist Gulzar’s classic ‘Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai’ tune for a Hindi-speaking Mowgli.
Now, Stuart Paterson has reimagined Kipling's much-loved stories of Mowgli and his animal adventures for a new generation in a vibrant stage production full of surprises in Manchester.
iGlobal caught up with British Indian actor Sanjiv Joshi, who takes on the role of Bagheera, the short-tempered panther. The youthful and charismatic actor with a deep baritone is ideally suited to the role.
"This play I'm in now is completely new territory for me. I've never done anything like this before,” shares Joshi.
“This play is far removed from the Disney version and follows Kipling's book more closely in pathos and essence. This show will be entertaining for the entire family, and I hope everyone comes and watch it because I'm sure they will enjoy it immensely," he said.
The actor migrated to the UK with his parents at age two in 1965 and feels a strong connect with his Gujarati heritage.
He said: "Even though I've been in the UK for most of my life, I've always seen India as my home. I still have close family links in Gujarat, where my roots are. Culturally, India is close to my heart; my wife is also from India.
“So, I'll always have that Indianness in me. But I also have the British-ness, and I'm glad it does because I believe these aspects complement each other.”
While Joshi’s day job as a compliance regulator in a finance company keeps him busy, the stage and a live audience provide that essential outlet for his creative side.
He explains: "Acting came into my life quite late, not until five or six years ago. I'm happy I've never been pigeonholed as an actor for my background or ethnicity.
"The character of Bagheera has always appealed to me from a young age. In fact, his characteristic traits reflect me as a person as well. But one must remember although you're an animal, you are a human-animal. So merging the human and the animal in this role felt challenging to me initially. But as time went on, I started getting that feeling within me as I walked on the stage.”
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Joshi's all-black ensemble for the role resonates with this “human-animal” characterisation.
"The costumes are amazing, very imaginative, and they help you get into the character well. The designers have truly done a remarkable job with the costumes, I feel," Joshi reflected.
The show premiered recently and is set to run until the middle of this month.
Retelling a story told several times over the years in different ways and still catching the audience by surprise is not an easy task. Ros Greenwood's direction and stagecraft and some incredible teamwork of actors Myles Ryan (Mowgli), Peter Birch (Shere Khan), Mathew Spilsbury (Baloo), Ellidh Pollard (Kaa), Ginny Chorghade and Artistic Director Joseph Meighan promise to impress the audience – young and old.
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As an adaptation first staged by Birmingham Stage Company in 2004, there is something in this latest version for all the family.
*Info: Altrincham Garrick Playhouse