Running Wild by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre

Running Wild by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre is on at Cass Sculpture Foundation from August 2-16

Running Wild by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre is on at Cass Sculpture Foundation from August 2-16

A scene from The Woman In Black. Picture by Tristram Kenton

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Freya Peake is looking forward to the greatest challenge of her young acting career when Chichester Festival Youth Theatre offer their promenade production of Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild this summer.

The 14-year-old student at Chichester’s Bishop Luffa (inset) will be puppeteering an orang-utan in the tale of post-tsunami survival.

She will be holding rods for both of the animal’s hands and one for its head – three rods in her own two hands. And though Freya will clearly be visible, it’s crucial she remains in effect hidden. It mustn’t be Freya we see, she explains.

‘It is the hardest show I have done so far,’ Freya says. ‘My eyes have to be focused on the puppet all the time. I am not supposed to show much emotion on my face because people have got to connect with the puppet, not with me.’

It means that Freya cannot look up: ‘I have got to be looking at the puppet all the time. I will have to use peripheral vision. It is very hard, but it is also the most interesting show I have done.’

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre will be offering the show at Cass Sculpture Foundation from August 2-16. Running Wild by Michael Morpurgo comes in a new adaptation by Samuel Adamson.

Freya Peake is the organ-utan's puppeteer for Running Wild.

Freya Peake is the organ-utan's puppeteer for Running Wild.

Following the tragic death of his father, everyone is keen to help young Will. When his grandmother suggests an Indonesian holiday, it’s a dream opportunity to encounter the elephants he adores and learn about his own heritage.

But no one could foresee the world-changing events of Boxing Day 2004. Or the remarkable elephant who carries Will deep into the jungle after the tsunami.

But before he can allow the orang-utans, monkeys, snakes and other animals to heal his wounds, he has to escape the hunters and their terrifying boss, the evil palm oil king, Mr Anthony…

Freya has been in the youth theatre since year six, four years now: ‘My sisters and brother were all in it. But really every show is different. It doesn’t ruin the experience for you (that your siblings have been there before). You are always creating something new.

People have got to connect with the puppet, not with me

Freya Peake

‘It’s quite scary really, but it is good scary. Being backstage on the first show is the scariest part, but once you are on stage, you have rehearsed it all so well and so much that it all becomes second nature and you know you should be fine. Everything is fun. The rehearsals are fun. The performances are fun. Everyone in the show is really fun. The whole thing is just such a great experience for everyone involved.

‘I don’t really know what I will be when I grow up, but I know that if acting won’t be my career, it will definitely be one of my hobbies.

‘My role in Running Wild has been one of my favourites. I also enjoyed being in the last promenade show I did which was Noah, and in the Christmas show, I was one of the Dalmatians in One Hundred and One Dalmatians.’

Clearly outdoor promenade performance and being inside in a theatre are two very different experiences: ‘Outside, you have got to speak much louder and with much more articulation. In a theatre, people can be heard much more clearly because your voice bounces off the walls, but when you are outside, without any walls, your voice just goes off into the distance… But in a way, in a promenade performance, you can be much more intimate because you are so much closer to the audience.’

Suitable for children aged seven or older. Tickets: from £8.50, visit cft.org.uk or call 01243 781 312.

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