Akram Khan to reimagine The Jungle Book

David Mead

Akram Khan Company and Leicester’s Curve Theatre have announced that the choreographer is to reimagine Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale in what is promised will be a very personal interpretation with an original score. The new work, Akram Khan’s Jungle Book Reimagined will premiere at Curve from April 2-9, 2022.

Directed and choreographed by Khan, written by Tariq Jordan, and with dramaturgy by Sharon Clark and music by Anoushka Shankhar, this work will feature a cast of ten dancers. Also on the creative team and helping to turn the stage into a magical world are lighting designer Michale Hulls, visual stage designer Tom Scutt, animator Naaman Azhari, video projection specialists Yeast Culture and film director Andy Serkis.

The production is a revisiting of the book by Khan, who played Mowgli in Akademi’s Indian dance production The Adventures of Mowgli when aged 10. Now, decades later, he says he wants to reunite with the story made well-known through two successful films, but also tell it through the lens of today’s children and, in doing so, embrace it with a new sense of urgency.

Young Akram Khan in Akademi’s The Adventures of Mowgli in 1984Photo Alan Dilly, Akademi archives
Young Akram Khan in Akademi’s The Adventures of Mowgli in 1984
Photo Alan Dilly, Akademi archives

Embedded in the roots of the production will be the threat posed by humankind towards nature. Khan and his team will reimagine Mowgli’s journey through the eyes of a refugee caught in a world devastated by the impact of climate change.

Akram Khan says,”The Jungle Book’s story has always been close to me. Not only because I had inhabited the role of Mowgli in an Indian dance production as a young boy, but more because of the three deep lessons it held within it, that I have since carried with me all my life – the lessons of commonality between species, the binding interdependence between humans, animals and nature and, finally, a sense of family and our need to belong.

“We are now living in unprecedented and uncertain times, not only for our species but for all species on this planet. And the root cause of this conundrum is because we have forgotten our connection to our home, our planet. We all inhabit it, we all take from it, and we all build on it, but we have forgotten to return our respect for it. So, I believe that we must make changes from the grass roots up if we are to see a brighter future. And so I feel compelled to share the story – lovingly known as The Jungle Book – with children and adults from all cultures, in order to re-learn what we, as a species, have so conveniently forgotten. And I believe that the strongest and deepest way to tell this story is through the magic of dance, music and theatre.”