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Running Wild

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Ever since War Horse stole the world's heart, another staging of one of Michael Morpurgo's deeply moral novels was inevitable. Stand up Samuel Adamson's adaptation of the author's 2009 work for young people, which starts off in a London park, where nine year old Lilly remembers spotting wild birds with her football crazy dad. Little does she know she will end up being saved from a tsunami in the wilds of Indonesia by a flatulent elephant called Oona. Somewhere along the way we learn that Lilly's dad was a casualty of the Iraq war, while the hunters who stalk the jungle are as likely to take pot-shots at her as an orangutan named after footballer Frank Lampard.

In an expansive staging by co-directors Timothy Sheader and Dale Rooks, both Lilly and Oona are caught in the crossfire of these money-obsessed predators, as their destruction of the natural world is exposed. Beyond such an eco-friendly triumph of right over might, Paul Wills' vast set houses a parade of life-size animal puppets designed by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olie, operated by the company with a beguiling and emotionally charged finesse.

For all the puppetry's eye-popping delights in a production first presented by Chichester Festival Theatre and Regent's Park Theatre, and revived here by the Children's Touring Partnership , the show is carried by a remarkable performance by eleven-year old India Brown. As one of three young actresses who play Lilly, she remains on stage throughout the play's two hour duration. By switching the gender of the book's main protagonist, Adamson introduces a new level of emancipation to a heart-wrenching tale of grief, loss and survival.

The Herald, May 4th 2017

ends

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