Portsmouth City Council’s emergency grant, securing the short-term future of the Groundlings Theatre, is justified by a production with many virtues.
It is richly entertaining, brings young people together in both individual discovery and teamwork, and shows the special appeal of dinner-theatre, with an Indian meal available.
Rudyard Kipling’s classic is staged amid a jungle set overflowing in greens and browns, with red splashes for contrast, haunted by Indian-style music.
And director Richard Stride successfully relates the story of the boy, Mowgli, brought up as a wolf club in the jungle in defiance of Shere Khan, to the wider human world.
One highlight, for example, is the scene where rampaging monkeys are seen as the equivalent of hoodie-clad troublemakers.
Most roles are double-cast but the first-night acting was lively, with strong performances from Jay Beaumont as a Mowgli torn between the jungle and his place among the humans, Tom Emery as an endearing Baloo the bear, Joe Pope as Bagheera and Maria Bowles as a slinky Kaa.
But the stand-out performance is by Emma Uden, making a sensually snarling tigress of Shere Khan, roaring a lot but also knowing the value of the menacing half-tone.
Azzurra Moores is likeable as Lucy, the girl narrator, and plenty of others make their mark. Colourful make-up and costumes also play a vital role.
Further performances tomorrow and daily from Saturday until April 10.