War Horse author Michael Morpurgo has created yet another stunning story which has now been adapted for stage, this time aimed at a younger audience.
Running Wild tells the tale of 9-year old Lilly (Jemima Bennett) who is struggling to come to terms with recent death of father, a soldier in Afghanistan. To ease her loss her Grandma suggests she takes a trip with her Mum to Indonesia for Christmas to make new memories and get the chance to ride her favourite animal, the elephant. When a tsunami hits the island though tragedy strikes again and Lilly is whisked off into the jungle on the back of Oona the elephant and about to face some of the biggest challenges of her life.
Morpurgo based Running Wild on real life events he read about in a newspaper back in 2004, when a tsunami hit Sri Lanka killing over 300,000 people. Out of all that tragedy came a shining light – an uplifting story of a little boy who got stranded in the jungle after the elephant he was riding on charged off as soon as the quake hit, saving the boys’ life in the process.
In the stage adaption by Samuel Adamson the boy in the book becomes a girl, played during this Children’s Touring Partnership production by three alternate young actresses. Jemima Bennett played Lilly on the night we saw Running Wild and gave a polished performance as the feisty tomboy. Bennett takes on the huge role with a professionalism beyond her young years, and demonstrates Lilly’s sheer determination to survive everything the jungle throws in her way.
There’s a plethora of spectacular puppets on display created by former War Horse Puppetry designers and directors Fin Caldwell and Toby Olie; from Sumatran tigers, to crocodiles and Orangutans. All of them are beautiful crafted and expertly handled by the talented team of puppeteers that bring them to life onstage and give them a heart and soul.
James Whiteside compliments the thrilling action with his atmospheric lighting design which evokes the mood changes of each scene perfectly. Whiteside effectively uses frantic flashes of strip lighting to signify danger and beautiful firefly-esq lights that highlight moments of serenity.
Running Wild isn’t a sugar coated ‘George of the Jungle’ story you might expect it to be, in parts it is quite upsetting and, for the younger children in the audience, a bit scary (I’d advise to ignore the guidance of age 6+ to be safe and take those aged 8 upwards). However, it is also a play that excites with its adventure and manages to leave both children and adults with some important moral messages about our society today and our relationship with animals.
Runs at The Lowry, Salford until 22nd April. Tickets available here; http://www.thelowry.com/events/running-wild