REVIEW: Jungle Rumble, Perform Productions (Fortune Theatre)

Perform does drama with a difference. For over 20 years the drama school founded by Lucy Quick and Will Barnett has run confidence building classes for ages 4 to 12, using performing arts based games to help build social skills. Children absolutely love their high energy classes, led by professionally trained performers. And while they are not a traditional stage school, every term ends on a low pressure performance for family and friends. It might sound like we’re parroting a press release but we’re actually speaking entirely from experience. The munchkins both attended their weekly classes for nearly four years, and have spent many a half term (and Easter….and Summer holiday) on a Perform holiday course. Quaver even had a Perform party for her fifth birthday so as you might imagine, we’re very much sold on the Perform ethos!

One of the things that has always struck us about Perform is how fantastic the songs are (a good job really since – as any Perform parent will tell you – you’re going to be hearing them a lot!) Crafted by Perform co-founder Will Barnett, these catchy musical numbers wouldn’t feel out of place in a West End auditorium – And that’s exactly where you can find them this half term, as Perform Productions brings a new family musical, Jungle Rumble, to the stage. Mummy and the munchkins headed along on Tuesday to check it out.

Darren Hart as Cheetah in Jungle Rumble. Credit: Helen Maybanks

Expanding into producing family theatre feels like a very natural progression for Perform. And, cleverly, they have aligned the show with the theme of their weekly classes for ages 4 to 7. Written by Will Barnett and directed by Susie McKenna, Jungle Rumble uses songs, dances and scenes from this term’s jungle theme, meaning children who attend Perform classes get to see what they are working on come to life on a professional stage. Children were encouraged to sing and dance along, and it was easy to spot the children who attend Perform classes in the audience. It was absolutely fantastic to see little ones proudly doing their dance moves and one little boy in particular was clearly living his best life as he belted out ‘Don’t Trust a Cheetah’ along with performer Darren Hart.

That doesn’t mean that Jungle Rumble is just for Perform students. It works perfectly as a standalone production and, running at just under an hour, is a great introduction to live theatre for young audiences. (It’s also a brilliant introduction to Perform and we have a feeling that plenty of families will be trying out their classes after half term!) With a cast of eight (down to seven on Tuesday due to illness), it’s a surprisingly big production for a short run family show and the whole cast are every bit as awesome as we have come to expect from Perform. We especially enjoyed Ben Stock in a range of roles, including the campest crocodile you will ever encounter and the evil Lord Braggard (booooo!) Rachel Lea-Gray also did a brilliant job of stepping into the hooves of Zella the zebra, and it was great to hear the cheers when it was announced that she would be playing the role. Lotte Collett’s set and costume design is inspired, transforming the usually spooky set of The Woman in Black into a colourful playground for the jungle creatures. And, of course, we loved all the songs!

Ben Stock as Lord Braggard in Jungle Rumble. Credit: Helen Maybanks

We really enjoyed Jungle Rumble and are so pleased to see Perform finding new ways to inspire young people. We know that they have plenty more shows up their sleeve so we can’t wait to see what Perform Productions does next. It feels appropriate to give the munchkins the last word on this review though, so here’s what they thought:

“I think that it is good for the red* perform people because it will help them know how to act it out when they do their show.”

Crotchet, age 10

“I think it is a good way to teach children to do team work. And to be brave. And I think that you could get some of the red kids on stage. and we have been on black* perform.”

Quaver, age 8

*Perform runs classes for ages 4 to 7 (who wear red t-shirts) and 7 to 12 (who wear black t-shirts).

Jungle Rumble plays at The Fortune Theatre from 14 to 20 February 2022. We received complimentary press tickets in return for a review.