Reviewed by Linda Curtain
‘It’s a puppet’ we had to constantly remind ourselves last evening, while watching Michael Morpurgo’s latest stage adaptation of his book ‘Running Wild’. Adapted by Samuel Adamson, it is being performed at the Theatre Royal Plymouth this week and we were interested to see how the book transferred to the stage.
Plymouth Theatre Royal is located within Plymouth city centre and provides an ideal venue for a great variety of stage productions from national tours to small local companies. Having parked in one of the nearby car parks, we were once again warmly welcomed by the front of house staff who always ensure that you know where to go. The foyer coffee shop is a great place for a pre-show beverage and the bar areas are ideal for a chat before the production.
Although familiar with several of Michael Morpurgo’s books, this was a new story for me. It is based on a true event which occurred in 2004 when the tsunami hit Indonesia. The story tells of a young girl Lilly who loves elephants. After the death of her father in Iraq, she goes with her mother to Indonesia for Christmas but while riding on Oona – a beautiful elephant – the animal senses the approaching tsunami and bolts into the jungle. Clinging onto the elephants back, Lilly’s fight for survival in the jungle begins.
With good use of lighting effects and staging, we experienced the devastation of the tsunami and also a dramatic forest fire. The stand out element of the show though had to be the amazing puppetry. Designed and created by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olie – who worked together on the magnificent War Horse – they have again created something special. With such life like mannerisms and movements, you soon forgot that each creature was being operated by several puppeteers. Oona the elephant moved her trunk and ears with such realism and her eyes seemed to be constantly alert for any lurking dangers.
The young girl playing Lilly was incredible. Such a large part for a twelve-year-old. Each line was delivered clearly and with such emotion and emphasis. Her timing was brilliant – a very promising young actress.
With an underlying story of saving the rainforest, some of the scenes were very emotional and could be quite frightening for young children hence the recommendation for over eight year olds.
With superb acting, exquisite puppetry and a good storyline, this is certainly another masterpiece for Mr Morpurgo.
A good 5 star rating.
Tickets cost from £10 to £23 (booking fees may apply).
Running Wild is at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth from 16-20 May 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.theatreroyal.com or call the box office on 01752 267222.
Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, PL1 2TR | 01752 267222