The puppeteers will be Darcy Collins (Frank, the baby orangutan), Romina Hytten (orangutan Mani Head), Fred Davis (Mani Body), Elisa de Grey (elephant Oona Trunk), James Charlton (Oona Head), Michael Peters (Oona Heart), and Wela Mbusi (Oona Hind), with Gareth Aled and Scarlet Wilderink as alternate puppeteers.

Michael Morpurgo’s novel, based on a true story, is brought to life in this award-winning production, which has been described by critics as ‘inspiring’, ‘evocative, ‘imaginative’ and ‘life-affirming’. Originally produced by Regent’s Park Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre, this epic production, complete with spectacular life-size puppets, tells an emotional and moving story of love, loss and loyalty and of living for the moment.

Running Wild is the story is of a girl named Lilly, who, whilst on holiday with her mother in Indonesia, takes an elephant ride. During the ride, Oona, the elephant, suddenly becomes anxious and runs from the beach deep into the jungle. With Lilly on her back, they escape moments before the tsunami hits the island. Miles from civilisation, at first there’s wonder, discovery and tree-top adventures with the orangutans, but, as thoughts turn to her mother left behind on the beach, and wild tigers prowl, and hunger hits, Lilly must now learn to survive the rainforest. And then the hunters come…

Michael Morpurgo, the former children’s laureate and author of War Horse, was inspired by the real-life story of Amber Owen, who was on holiday in Phuket with her mother and stepfather in 2004, when she went on an elephant ride. While riding Ning Nong along the beach, the eight-year-old noticed the elephant was attempting to pull away from the receding sea water. “He ran away and, as the water came in, I was safely on his back. He saved my life.” When he read Amber’s story in the newspaper, Michael Morpurgo said it was the one bit of hope amid the destruction of the Boxing Day tsunami which hit South East Asia. The production will work to support the Born Free Foundation’s global elephant conservation projects.

Originated by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, when it won a prestigious UK Theatre Award, before receiving its London premiere at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Running Wild is co-directed by CFT’s Education Director Dale Rooks and Artistic Director of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre Timothy Sheader, with set and costume design by Paul Wills, puppetry design and direction by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié for Gyre & Gimble, both previous Associate Puppetry Directors on War Horse, original songs and composition by Rod Paton, additional music by Nick Powell and Louise Anna Duggan, sound score by Nick Powell, lighting design by James Whiteside, sound design by Nick Sagar and movement direction by Georgina Lamb. Casting director for the UK Tour is Polly Jerrold, with original casting for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre by Jessica Ronane CDG.

The UK Tour of Running Wild has received Arts Council funding.