REVIEW: Running Wild by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre at Cass Sculpture Foundation, Goodwood

Picture: Mike Eddowes
Picture: Mike Eddowes
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There are certain plays that call out for an outdoor performance, and this is one of them.

Set in Indonesia after the Boxing Day earthquake of 2004, CFYT made the wise choice to take the theatre to the forest and not vice versa in this adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s 2009 novel of the same name.

Picture: Mike Eddowes

Picture: Mike Eddowes

Already grieving for his father, Will’s life is thrown into further turmoil after the tsunami separates him from his mother during their holiday and forces him to take refuge in the jungle with only an elephant for company.

A large ensemble of narrators, clad in Thai fisherman’s pants, led the audience around the grounds of the Cass Sculpture Foundation at Goodwood where Will’s journey unfolded. They worked in complete harmony together as their choral chants and animal noises echoed through the already atmospheric setting.

But what brought the jungle truly to life were the puppets, made by the designers of War Horse – and their puppeteers, the unsung heroes of this show.

As a life-size elephant controlled by five youths lumbered through the trees towards us, it felt as though CFYT had discovered the secret of teleportation. In fact, it was the quality of the puppets - which included orang-utans and a particularly fearsome tiger - and the detail of their controllers’ charactisation which took the audience across the world.

As a life-size elephant controlled by five youths lumbered through the trees towards us, it felt as though CFYT had discovered the secret of teleportation

It is a shame that the acting at times suspended this belief. While their energy and enthusiasm was evident, some of the main cast were over-acting rather than projecting their voices, and needed reining in.

Also, at times the size of the crowds meant that you struggled to see the action. At one point I had to stand behind the performance, which ruined the illusion of Will swimming in a river – I could see cast members lifting him up behind the sheets of blue fabric.

This insight into the mechanics of the show did prove, however, just how slick the whole production was. It may have been called Running Wild, but these talented children worked together like a well-oiled machine.

Until August 16.