Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, has another hit on his hands with Running Wild which opened this year’s season at the Open Air Theatre in London’s Regent’s Park. The cast includes 57 young performers from the local community alternating performances. Three children take it in turn to perform the lead role Will, as the young boy or Lilly, as the girl.
I saw it at a Preview with Joshua Fernandes as Will, a truly talented youngster and obviously a star in the making. The performance includes wild animals,cleverly portrayed by a team of puppeteers, which includes an elephant, a family of orang-utans who are given names, and a tiger. Top marks for Morpurgo who, in his story-telling, makes a stand against the racketeering that is currently going on in Indonesia whereby wild animals and their habitats are being destroyed.
The story centres on Will who, on the death of his father, goes on holiday with his Indonesian mother to learn about his origins. It’s a new start, with the chance to ride an elephant called Oona. Then the tsunami hits. Oona escapes the beach, charging deep into the jungle, with her young rider desperately clinging on. Miles from civilisation, at first there’s wonder, discovery and tree-top adventures amongst the orang-utans. As thoughts turn to his mother left behind on the beach, tigers prowl, and hunger hits. Will must learn to survive in the rainforest – a story of love, loss, loyalty, and living for the moment.
Having a picnic is always fun and at the Open Air Theatre there is always a barbecue with tables on the grass. If the weather allows it is definitely worth coming early and enjoying this option.
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are partnering on Running Wild. Through education modules created by ZSL, Years 7-8 (KS3, Ages 11-12), will have the opportunity to explore the themes within the production. At ZSL London, the ‘Wildlife under Threat’ module will show how wildlife crime continues to endanger species and how the rapid expansion of unsustainable palm oil demand (found in half of packaged supermarket products, and increasingly used as a bio fuel) is devastating natural habitats.
At ZSL Whipsnade, the ‘Ecosystems’ module reveals the importance of each piece of the ecosystem puzzle, and also how human activity relies on the effective functioning of natural systems.
Box Office 0844 826 4242
Open Air Theatre, Inner Circle, Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4NU
Performances: Tue – Sun (7.45pm) matinees Weds, Sat & Sun (2.15pm)
No matinee on 14, 18 May. Finishes 12 June,2016.