'We are guests on Earth': Akram Khan to stage The Jungle Book as climate crisis tale

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Choreographer’s new version, to be performed at Leicester’s Curve in 2022, reinvents Kipling’s Mowgli as a climate refugee

At the age of 10, Akram Khan played Mowgli in an Indian dance version of The Jungle Book. Now, 37 years later, the choreographer has decided it’s time to revisit Rudyard Kipling’s famed, if problematic, tales. “I wanted to tackle The Jungle Book from my perspective, rather than Kipling’s,” says Khan. “We can’t ignore that he was a racist and an imperialist, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the story was something that I connected with. It had a huge impact on me when I was a child.”

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Khan, who is known for melding Indian kathak dance, contemporary dance and theatre in award-winning shows including Desh, Xenos and Until the Lions (as well as performing at the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony) is reinventing Kipling’s story through the prism of the 21st century’s most pressing concern: the climate crisis. In The Jungle Book Reimagined, which opens at Leicester’s Curve theatre in April 2022, Mowgli is a climate refugee arriving in London from India to find the streets deserted. The city has been reclaimed by nature and become a jungle.

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