Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild opened at the Wolverhampton Grand last night, with a show that truly made you feel like you were in an Indonesian rain forest. Telling the story of Lily, a young girl who just happened to be having a ride on a beach elephant at the point when the Tsunami struck Indonesia on that fateful Boxing Day in 2004, Running Wild is Lily’s story of survival, her quest to try and find her mother, whilst also finding out about the destruction of the rain forest and the animals that live in it. it is a children’s story, but a more hard hitting one you would struggle to find, and in a production where the puppet animals are incredibly lifelike, and life sized, you have a production that is incredibly powerful and moving.
Lily’s grandmother pays for tickets for the girl and her mother to visit Indonesia,following her Father’s birth in Iraq, killed by a roadside bomb. Indonesia is the land of her Lily’s mother’s birth, ,and with mom struggling to get through to her daughter through her grief, a visit to a land full of elephants and nature seems the perfect way for Lily to start to recover. Lily takes an elephant ride on Oona, a beach elephant, but the Tsunami sends the elephant running, with Lily, to the safety of the rain forest. But is the rain forest, with its tigers, crocodiles and big game hunters, any more safe for a little girl just trying to find her way home? Only the bond with Oona, and the baby Orangutan Frank Lampard keeps Lily strong.
Lily, as played by the wonderful Annika Whiston, is a real heroine and role model. Despite her plight, in Whiston’s hands, Lily is never a victim, she is a fighter, a courageous, resourceful heroine who never gives up. Her relationship with Oona and Frankie is touching and beautiful. Oona is a masterpiece of a puppet, in the hands of her puppeteers she has real character – you literally fall in love with her. The Orangutans and the majestic, sleek and sinister Tiger are also brilliant in their realness. You are literally transported to the rain forest, everything feels real.
Running Wild is a story every child should watch. It pulls no punches in its powerful story, particularly in the plight of animals who are having their natural habitat destroyed by man. It works as an adventure story, a parable about grief and as a spectacle. In short, it is brilliant and inspiring.
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