Just So: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Rudyard Kipling - The Regent Centre, Christchurch, 26th October, 2014
Though undoubtedly a great writer Rudyard Kipling was, above all else, a product of the late Victorian and Edwardian era. Born into a world of imperialism and Empire, he wrote what he knew and in recent decades his reputation has suffered for it. Critics have seen him as a jingoist, a snob, a racist even.
This intriguing touring production argues that Kipling has been judged too harshly. It views him as a complex but kind man who was one of the most brilliant writers and poets that Britain has ever produced.
With readings, observations and wry asides from actor Robert Powell and a fine selection of music from the production’s creator Christine Crowshaw on piano and producer Clive Conway on flute, this gentle production dug deceptively deep into Kipling’s life and world.
Powell, who has played everyone from Jesus to Mahler, is a class act with a skilful repertoire of voices and mannerisms that never dominate but bring to vivid life the reading in question.
The music too evoked perfectly the moment in time as we journeyed chronologically from Kipling’s birth in British India in 1865 via his mercurial success as a late Victorian writer through the idyll of Edwardian England the hell of the First World War to his death in 1936.
It told of his terrible childhood when he was handed inexplicably by kind, unquestioning parents to brutal childminders in England…for five long years. It explored his brilliant writing career which produced stories like Kim, The Jungle Book and of course the Just So Stories. It dwelt, briefly but importantly, on his devastation at the deaths of loved ones. It gently probed his curious marriage to the wife of his best friend, his sense of foreboding as the First World War approached and the towering reputation that he won and lost as the world that he had championed and in turn had championed him was destroyed forever. This was an excellent production and a worthy addition to the many commemorative events marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War.