Keziah Joseph – who plays Mowgli in a new touring production of The Jungle Book – saw a group of guys, presumably football fans, walking past, chanting Rule Britannia.
When they came to the line about “never will be slaves”, they pointed to Keziah and the guy in front of her.
“The guy in front of me was black as well, and they pointed at us and laughed. It was a very weird and uncomfortable moment. I had a very different reaction to the guy in front of me who looked like he would have been aggressive and shouted something back. I was just a little bit stunned and walked on.”
It highlighted, though, the continuing relevance of The Jungle Book, the tale of someone growing up somehow different: “I feel really honoured to be part of the show, especially if it will help people from ethnic minorities.
“I have got many stories of me feeling different when I was a child and feeling like I was being treated in a different way. I can really relate to Mowgli in that regard.
“It is not just the shock of thinking I am one thing and then being treated as something different.
“The story is about being accepted and about thinking that you belong.
“I got the call from my agent when I was on holiday and I immediately knew I wanted to play the part of Mowgli,” says Keziah who tours in the show to Chichester Festival Theatre from January 25-February 3 (www.cft.org.uk).
“I remember the Disney version when I was growing up.
“But I loved the fact that they were looking for girls as well as boys to play Mowgli in this. And I remembered particularly Mowgli’s relationship with Bagheera, this story of a child growing up raised by wild animals. It’s a journey of identity that Mowgli goes on.
“I read the original Rudyard Kipling book before I auditioned. I didn’t know that it was based on Rudyard Kipling’s own childhood.
“He was brought up by his parents who then left, and he was then brought up by Indian adopted parents.
“It was that whole thing, like with Mowgli, of being in a group of people who are not like him… and then having to realise that he was this English white middle-class boy and that that was who he really was.
“This production is closer to the original book than it is to the film, and I think that that is really good.
“There is a lot in the book that is missed by the film.
“There are certain characters and certain storylines that you don’t get. I have now looked at quite a few different versions of the story, and they all have their different takes on it, but I like the fact that with this one we are getting much closer to the original.
“I hope our version will get people to look again at the original and see what an interesting book it is.
“I think for Mowgli the discovery is basically that he is human. It is not about him discovering that he is a boy or a girl.
“It is about being human. That is the important thing. It is not really about his gender.
“Also, it is about that universal journey from child to becoming an adult. It is about belonging.
“It is also about being different, and I think that is what makes it really relevant especially now, post-Brexit, when we are thinking more about people being different, more about immigration and about what that means.”
Tickets from Chichester Festival Theatre on www.cft.org.uk.