Running Wild – Theatre Review

Based on Michael Morpurgo’s classic children’s tale, ‘Running Wild’ was brought to live on stage at The Lowry Theatre. Through genius puppetry, dazzling costume and vivid imagination, Samuel Adamson’s adaptation stole the hearts of all who watched.

In a story of love, loss and perseverance, Lilly’s holiday to Indonesia is a fresh start. After the death of her father at war in Iraq, a return to happiness is on the horizon. In her mother’s native country, she rides an elephant – her life-long wish. However, paradise is cut short when the devastating tsunami beneath the Indian Ocean in 2004 strikes.

Oona, the elephant Lilly rides, runs rampant and saves her life. Immersed in the rainforest, although safe from the destruction of the waves, Lilly faces new dangers at every turn. Although Oona is initially introduced as a troublesome and disobedient elephant she becomes Lilly’s protector when she loses everything.

Using the entirety of the large space on the Lyric stage, the stage setting is immense. With a crafted ensemble stretching every corner, the jumbled structure hangs from the ceiling. Constructed from bed frames, chairs, wooden pallets and even a car door – although initially confusing, the reason soon becomes clear.

Using many household items such as dishevelled green umbrellas and colourful shower loofahs, fruit and trees are re-imagined. Undulating blue sheets become the aggressive tidal waves.

In a ‘War Horse’-like fashion, Oona is controlled by puppeteers and her movements are astonishingly lifelike. The actors who control her are not in any way distracting and do not limit the show in the slightest.

In a similar manner to Oona, other wild animals also come to life on stage. Tigers and orang-utans occupy the stage and transport the audience to the deepest and darkest parts of the Indonesian rainforest.

Perhaps a moment that injected the most laughter was Lilly’s determination to prove her support to Chelsea FC. “Why does no one drink tea in Manchester? Because Chelsea has all the cups”. In light of Man United’s recent 2-0 victory over Chelsea, football rivalry was rife and laughter inevitably followed.

Although an initially harrowing tale, ‘Running Wild’ will warm the hearts of its audience. Marketed as suitable for those aged 6 and upwards, the show is suitable for the whole family. This was made evident by The Lowry’s audience members, who consisted of multiple generations.

The mixed ages, with some audience members (myself included) not accompanied by children show how Michael Morpurgo’s tale – even when read as a child – still has lasting effects into adulthood.

TNT Arts & Culture Alexia Hendrickson

Photo Credit: Running Wild

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