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Spectacular adventures in the wild

Running Wild, The Belgrade Theatre, until February 25.

Running Wild, a spectacular and thought-provoking adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel, features a fearsome tiger, an heroic elephant and a murderous band of poachers...and in the midst of all that, nine-year-old Lilly trying to escape the effects of a devastating tsunami.

Elaborate life-size puppets represent the animals which Lilly runs into while lost in the Indonesian jungle following the tsunami.

Oona the elephant saves her and takes her to the jungle where she meets orangutans and a scary tiger.

But there's something more dangerous lurking in the jungle – not a wild animal but a band of poachers who are bent on destroying the wildlife and the environment. And we are soon clear that the driving force behind this vandalism is the lure of hefty profit from the sale of the animals – alive or dead.

Lilly flees from the murderous band with the help of her animal friends and we follow her adventures as she seeks safety.

The adventure is produced by the Children's Touring Partnership and their clever use of lighting and sound, and the extraordinary puppets, keep the audience enthralled.

I took along grandkids Erin and Connor aged six and seven respectively (the play is recommended for six-year-olds and over).

I did wonder how they would react, especially as the play starts with the death of Lilly's father in Iraq which is soon followed by the death of her mother in the tsunami, but they seemed to take it all in their stride. They were fascinated by the animal puppets and had no problem following Lilly's adventures.

Older children will enjoy the puppets and the action scenes, and will also get the message - that the natural environment is fragile and under threat from Western consumerism.

India Brown as Lilly is excellent and the pace and spectacle keeps up throughout. Appropriately, Running Wild is at the Belgrade during half term week - and is well-worth catching.

Pictured: Members of the Belgrade Theatre team take the heroic elephant in Running Wild, out to meet people in Coventry city centre.


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