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Review: The Concrete Jungle Book (Highrise)Pleasance Theatre, North Road, London N17, 1/06/2022

The show opened with two lively rap and grime messages, both filled with social commentary and setting the scene for the play.

In the first act we meet the 16-year-old protagonist, MO, and her early nemesis in Miss Matthews, a foster carer. There are another three individuals in the home - young men - who would tease or try to bully MO but she always held her own. Very soon a potential guardian, Bagheera, visits with the desire to adopt MO and Miss Matthews has a liking for Bagheera and wishes to get with him but he refuses to indulge. Eventually, Miss Matthews, who inherited the looking after young people from her mother, is unable to take the strain of doing so and turns to drink. The children leave and MO, the youngest, runs away.

Her story then interweaves with her being on the street, sleeping and wandering before meeting characters like Baloo - a guardian of the streets - who takes her under wing after meeting her sleeping in an enclave. She goes on to show MO the dangers of being on the streets better known as The Concrete Jungle. But their relationship ends when MO is deceived by her when she finds out that Baloo had placed a bet on with other street dwellers on whether she’d survive the streets. MO runs away again and this is where she ends up in a gang.

The story evolves with MO having to deal with her emotions; Baloo having to deal with her own addiction and Bagheera’s determination to find MO so that he can adopt her.

Every scene is interspersed with poetry, rapping and singing, telling the story or bringing to life the social commentary. The lyrics and rhythms are catching and engage the audiences with their rhythmic beats while the rapping and singing is very good and delivered with enthusiasm, range and clarity of competent singers. The cast’s interaction with each other is also very cohesive in the way they play, communicate their lines and physically relate with each other. There were instances where they also engaged with the audience a few times and that enabled the audience to feel a part of the dramatization.

Highrise’s The Concrete Jungle Book is a very good production and the young cast members definitely have a future in film, television or the theatre.

Review by Kwame McPherson Resident Contributor at Turning: Point - Your Lifestyle, Your Well-Being 2020 Bursary Awardee The Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction

2007 Gold Award Poetic Soul Winner,

Book Mentor/Coach, Publisher and Author

Wb: (under construction)

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