Running Wild

Wolverhampton Grand


Running Wild is Michael Morpurgo’s natural story about the relationship between beast and human. This production by the Children’s Touring Partnership is adapted by Samuel Adamson for audiences of all ages.

Timothy Sheader directs the visually stunning and deeply moral production of wild animals and a coming of age tale that will stay with the imagination for a long while.

Lilly is a nine-year-old who loves Chelsea. The best days are going to matches with her dad, who is a soldier. Tragically, her dad dies during a tour and the family are left to grieve in England.

Her mother, being from Indonesia, thinks it might be helpful to go back to her home country to help Lilly see her heritage. In an awful spin of circumstance, Lilly also loses her mom in a tsunami. With no realisation that her grandma is looking for her, the only friend she has is an elephant named Oona. Together they wonder into the deep land of the Indonesian rainforest, meeting the good and bad along the way.

The production itself is visually stunning and real size puppets are central to the stunning production. They have the power to take the audience’s imagination to new heights.

The stellar cast of puppeteers are the driving force behind the magnificent animal kingdom, which includes four puppeteers alone making up the body of Oona. James Charlton, Elisa De Grey, Michael Peters and Wela Mbusi are masters at breathing life and individual soul into the outstanding piece of equipment.

Their animalistic qualities are breathtakingly life-like and every puppeteer has the ability to make us believe that the puppets are real tropical animals. The dark centres of the Indonesian rainforest come to life with playful orangutans, a prowling tiger and a giant crocodile.

The stage is framed with rubble and wreckage from the tsunami and it is a constant reminder of the effects of human destruction to the natural world. Sequences and set changes are slick and fast, carried out by the company in creatively clever ways.


Frank, the baby Orangutan and mother Mani (with puppeteers Darcy Collins Fred Davis and Romina Hytten) Pictures: Dan Tsantilis

In such a short production, we are transported from a normal English life to the wild world of Indonesia within the blink of an eye. A tsunami is alluded to with atmospheric strobe lights and a gauze which casts itself over the entire stage, representing the wave. The entire cast bring the tropical atmosphere to life and do well to transport the audience to a new and wild world. Every small detail is there to stir up the audience’s imagination tenfold.

This is a production that emphasises the importance of technical craftsmanship as well as in-depth character. Annika Whiston as Lilly is a twelve year old powerhouse. She is mature in character and is always focused. She is on stage constantly and is a fantastic Lilly, taking on the grave and traumatic emotional journey with outstanding talent. The adult cast are brilliant and help to create Lilly’s colourful world. Her mother is played by Balvinder Sopal and Dad is Kazeem Tosin Amore. There are particularly splendid performances from Stephen Hoo, playing multiple roles throughout the production. He leads with a sweet charm and comforting tone that helps Lilly through her adventures. Jack Sandle is also fantastic as the villainous Mr Anthony. He is the representation of human greed and environmental discard. His character is strong and has an important role to teach us about our daily ethical actions.

This production never patronises and holds many profound messages that speak to a young audience in particular. The fundamental theme is grief and through an imaginative and uplifting coming of age ending, it is an inspiring story that tells us all that there are ways to cope with the most difficult and emotional events.

Through Adamson’s adaptation, we learn the importance of the natural world and what it means to be conscious of the parts of the world that are not ours to possess. The production is rich in morality and its aim is to allow children to learn and grow in creativity and character. It is wonderful to see audiences of all ages enjoying the production. To 10-06-17.

Elizabeth Halpin


Index page Grand Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre