Skip to main content

Review of Running Wild by Michael Morpurgo at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

There is a well-regarded theory that if you treat children like adults when it comes to storytelling, you gain not only their respect but also their attention to a greater degree. That means that Running Wild, adapted by Samuel Adamson from Michael Morpurgo's 2009 novel should get the utmost attention. This is a truly uncompromising, and an occassionally harrowing tale of disaster and environmental destruction, one which cuts no corners in telling how cruel life can be at times.

Lily (India Brown) with Oona
Running Wild tells the story of Lily (Robert in the original book), who has recently lost her father to the Iraq war, and her adventures in Indonesia following her grandmother's decision to send her there with her mother as a treat to help her with her grief. There she meets beach elephant Oona, a very special animal that changes her life forever.

Set to the backdrop of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, Running Wild is a true visual masterpiece, opening with a picture frame set of detritus from disaster, all broken tables, sun loungers and destroyed pieces of everyday life, this is a piece that captivates the eye throughout thanks to Paul Wills' set design. The lighting from James Whiteside also creates a wonderful mix of colours to bring this forest world to life.

Inhabiting that world are the stars of the show, a collection of brilliantly realised animals; from Oona our star to orangutans and tiger, the puppetry work from Finn Caldwell and Toby Olie and their team of performers is exemplary. They are the true characters of the show and at that devastating closing moment of the first half you can't help but feels pangs of emotion for these magnificent beasts that feel truly alive.

The humans take the backseat in this production to the wonder of the puppets and are often lacking depth, more relying on caricature. Lily (played on the evening by India Brown) is for the first half a brattish, irritating child, true she is going through a tough life, but she is demanding and cruel to her true friend Oona. She softens a little in the second half as realisation dawns however and you learn to love her more. It is, however, a tremendously confident and brilliant performance from the young star.
The cast and puppeteers of Running Wild

From the grown-ups, Liz Crowther as Grandma comes out of the play with the deepest character, with her emotional portrayal through the pursuit of her family. There is a strong and evil portrayal of Mr Anthony from Jack Sandle, although at times this character is so obviously dastardly that you feel he has fallen from a cartoon. He is though at times believable in his threat of menace again child and animal alike.

On opening night at Royal & Derngate there were technical issues which saw a half hour delay to the show, and although these were unspecified, there felt a definite issue with the sound balance during the show, with some of the dialogue lost in the mix of sound.

Directors Timothy Sheader and Dale Rooks keep the spectacle flowing with visual momentum even if on occasion the story stumbles a little in pace during the first half, however with the added danger after the interval, it gathers a great pace up to its emotional, but a perhaps inevitable conclusion.

Running Wild is an excellent piece of theatre offering a depth of story to keep adults and children entertained throughout. It can at times be a disturbing tale and may be a little scary for some younger children, however, it has its morals clear for all and it does have a very relevant story to tell, one that truly needs a hearing.

★★★★

Performance reviewed: Tuesday 23rd May, 2017 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

Running Wild runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 27th May 2017. Details at: http://www.runningwildlive.co.uk/
For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

Photos: Dan Tsantilis



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Rules For Living at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It is possibly a rule in life for a few in the audience for the opening night of Sam Holcroft's domestic comedy Rules For Living not to mention Christmas until December. Therefore anyone of such a persuasion might have been a little perturbed to be presented on the 13th September with, an undeniably brilliantly dressed, homely Christmas scene.

Opening up in glorious dollhouse style and on a gorgeous little hinge, this little home of living room and kitchen sets the scene for a typical family Christmas. Mother Edith (Jane Booker) welcomes her sons, Matthew (Jolyon Coy) and Adam (Ed Hughes) and their respective partners, Carrie (Carlyss Peer) and Nicole (Laura Rogers) And with a final dramatic arrival of father Francis (Paul Shelley), the scene is very much set for comic antics of the highest calibre.

The first thing you get from Rules For Living in the first few minutes is the arrival of one of the most brilliant, yet simple concepts I have seen for a while in the play. These are …

Review of Make Way For Lucia by John Van Druten at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

There have been a couple of television versions of the Mapp & Lucia novels by E. F. Benson over the years and irrespective of which generation version you might have seen, the roles of Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas were filled with some heavyweight performers. So taking on these roles could, in theory, be a challenge too much to live up to. However, that would be if the characters themselves were less the sum of the performer. These are great characters on paper as well as on stage and therefore Gena McCrystal (Miss Mapp) and Juliet O'Connor (Lucia) make them very much their own in the stage adaption by John Van Druten.

Lucia has arrived and breezed both into the town of Tilling and the musical chair roundabout of house rental that is want to occur here. Her rented property is Miss Mapp's and for some reason, Mapp fails to follow the routine of keeping away, constantly "popping in", so the battle lines are drawn.
Make Way for Lucia is the typical battle of supremacy i…

Review of Once Upon A Grimm Tale by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company (Early) at Judge's Lodgings, Northampton

Once upon a time, there was a brave theatrical reviewer. He lived in a market town in deepest darkest Englaland, where many great and remarkable things of stage did occur. At the centre of this wondrous world of performing spectacles was a place referred to by many as the Royal Derngatus, a place of people pretending to be other people and telling tales of mystery, intrigue and frolics.

Within the fortressed walls of Royal Derngatus, there were a group of fearless players who entertained local folk for no reward, other than the thrill of seeing the joy in the faces of others. Those group of artists went by the name of Actors Companus, which many pronounced carefully when they did say it out loud. This group of merry men and women did have two forms, an early and a late, and but two days before this adventurous evening of forthcoming storytelling, the late group did perform for a third and final time a most amazing feat of theatre, going by the name of Great Expectations.


Our hero of thi…