Extra Running Wild

May 4 2017 | By More

Added matinee on in-service day

Running Wild, the adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel about a girl who is saved by an elephant from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, has added an extra matinee performance on Thursday 4 May.

The production is at the King’s theatre all week and Thursday is the day of the council elections when  Edinburgh schools have an in-service day. The matinee is at 2.30pm and replaces the previously scheduled evening performance.

Running Wild at the King’s Theatre, Tue – Sat. Tiger (with Darcy Collins, Corinna Powlesland and Stephen Hoo). Photo: Dan Tsantilis

The original novel, first published in 2009, was partially inspired by the former Children’s Laureate’s reading of the Jungle Book and The Elephant’s Child from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories as a child.

“I loved both books growing up,” he has said. “My mother used to read The Elephant’s Child to me and it made me giggle and laugh. Kipling used such wonderful language in his stories and these two in particular, which also left me with a love of elephants – so much so that I wanted to write my own about an elephant and its bond with a child.

“I couldn’t see how I could do it, so tried to forget about it, but then there was a ghastly event in 2004, the Boxing Day tsunami that killed 300,000 people. It was one of the greatest and most awful natural tragedies in my lifetime, with nature being as ferocious and wild as it can be.

“It was in the news for weeks and the stories that emerged were horrible. But then I read one about a family who had been on holiday and on that beach when it happened. A boy had begged his mother to let him have an elephant ride. Finally she agreed and off he went. He was there with the elephant and his handler when the sea went so far out exposing great swathes of the beach.

Happy ending

“No one knew what was happening but the elephant began to get agitated. He struggled, breaking free of his handler, and with the boy still on his back charged up the beach and ran away from the danger and deep into the forest. Fortunately it had a happy ending in that the family was eventually reunited.”

Oona, the elephant, in Running Wild. Pic: Dan Tsantilis

Inspired by what he had read, Morpurgo began to research into elephants and the tsunami. He also needed to find out about the rainforests, what man is doing to both protect and destroy them, and to find out about the animals that live there.

The result, Running Wild, was a book which Morpurgo says he not only felt compelled to write but also really enjoyed. Using the true story as his starting point, he created an adventure which tells of young Will, who goes on holiday to Indonesia with his mum and who gets the chance to ride an elephant on the beach one day.

All goes well but then the tsunami hits. The elephant senses danger and, charging deep into the jungle, it escapes the beach with her young rider desperately clinging on. Miles from civilisation, at first there’s wonder, discovery and tree-top adventures amongst the orangutans.

But then, as Will remembers his mum left behind, wild tigers start to prowl, hunger hits, and he must learn to survive the rainforest.


The book then inspired Chichester Festival to adapt it as a play for its youth theatre. A promenade production in a forest outside the town, used 100 child actors – who were also puppeteers, creating the elephant and the animals which the child met in the rainforest.

India Brown as Lilly with Frank, Baby Orangutan. Pic Dan Tsantilis

“The music was wonderful, the costumes were extraordinary and I loved it,” Morpurgo remembers of his visit to the production. “To see the whole jungle unfold and the child on the back of the elephant was out of this world. I knew it would get starry reviews because it was fabulous – and it was done entirely by children.”

In 2016, the adaptation by Samuel Adamson was staged in a modified version at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in London. This, itself, has now been modified to use adult actors in most of the roles and take place on an indoor stage as it tours the UK.

Morpurgo adds: “What’s wonderful for me is that this story, which I really enjoyed writing and moved me considerably, has grown and changed with each production.

“I also met the child, Amber, now in her 20s, whose true story inspired the book – and in fact, because of my faulty memory, it was actually a girl not a boy, so in the play we now have a girl playing the child, which is rather wonderful.”


Running Wild
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ. Phone booking: 0131 529 6000
Tuesday 2 – Saturday 6 May.
Evenings Tue, Fri, Sat: 7.30pm; Matinees Weds, Thurs & Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: http://www.edtheatres.com/runningwild

Running Wild website:  www.runningwildlive.co.uk.
Facebook: RunningWildLive
Twitter: @runningwildlive

Buy the original novel and the script on Amazon:

Running Wild on tour:
Tue 2 – Sat 6 May Edinburgh
King’s Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
Tue 9 – Sat 13 May Newcastle
Theatre Royal
0844 811 2121 Book online
Tue 16 – Sat 20 May Plymouth
Theatre Royal
01752 267222 Book online
Tue 23 – Sat 27 May Northampton
Royal & Derngate
01604 624811 Book online
Wed 31 May – Sat 3 Jun Canterbury
The Marlowe Theatre
01227 787787 Book online
Tue 6 – Sat 10 Jun Wolverhampton
Grand Theatre
01902 429 212 Book online

Running Wild. Pic Dan Tsantilis


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