There is nothing not to love about a theatre trip to see Running Wild at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. The play, set in the jungles of Indonesia sits as happily in Regent’s Park as does William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream!
Running Wild is an earnest piece with a strong message about animal poaching and decimated forests, but it still has heart, thanks to the performances of the young performers at the play’s heart. The lead role is alternated thoughout the run and the play tells of the bond that grows between a young boy (or girl, depending on the casting that night) and an elephant called Oona. Joshua Fernandes, Tyler Osborne and Ava Potter are the young actors who play the central role so fabulously.
It almost doesn’t matter what circumstances bring this modern day Mowgli to an Indonesian island (father killed in action, mother in a Tsunami) because the action carries us away from those two events so quickly that we are rapidly caught up in the relationship of the girl/boy and the elephant and the other animals that they meet on their way. Jeopardy is provided in the frame of a magnificent, Kipling-esque tiger, complete with fearful symmetry.
All of the animals, from brightly coloured birds, on the end of long sticks, wielded by members of the young chorus, to Oona herself, articulated by a team of 4 puppeteers, are beautifully bought to life. It is eay to invest fully in their stories: especailly when the group is attacked by poachers and their paradise odyssey is rudely interupted.
As the sun sets and the stage lights take over, the “jungle” around us comes to life. The drama, on stage, is magnificently accompanied by the cries and calls of the animals from across the park in London Zoo. This makes the last few scenes as magical as any I have seen on a stage anywhere.
The play is based on the book by Michael Morpogo and, whilst it sets about the job of translating the story to stage just as carefully as its more famous predecessor, War Horse, it does so with slightly less sophistication. This makes it more accessible to younger audiences, making Running Wild the perfect family outing – but wrap up warm: North London is not as warm as Indonesia!
Running Wild runs at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from 19 May to 12 June.
Further information on the whole season and links for booking theatre breaks at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre are at https://www.theatrebreaks.com/london/shows/regents-park-open-air-theatre