“You cannot tame something so happily wild.” Eva Sampson of How It Ended productions directs Wild at Unicorn Theatre and we loved this highly visual, non-verbal piece of theatre for children aged two to six years. Having experienced the immersive storytelling of The Little Gardner, from the same Hawaiian author as Wild, Emily Hughes, and adapted for the outdoor stage at Kew Gardens by How It Ended productions we knew we were in for a treat.
The story centres around, Wild, a child whose home is the forest and the animals that live there teach her how to eat, play, speak. She is the best sort of feral and wild. The sort of kid with muddy hands and messy hair – a great fit with our ethos and love of the great outdoors. And Jasmine Chiu delivers this with an awesome performance that is at once touching, funny and beautiful. She bundles into the story and keeps the kids captivated throughout – amazing how intuitive children are and how entranced by the acting. This play highlights just how much can be communicated without many words.
One day some hunters arrive to the forest and they take Wild away into a 50’s styled world where Joe Drake comes into his own with some Mr Bean farce style performance of a highly acclaimed and awarded psychiatrist. He studies Wild and aims to ‘tame’ and domesticate the child. It reminded me of my own parenting efforts when it comes to my wild child, but also spoke to me about the nature of the education system in general – perhaps outdoor education is more valuable in the formative years?!
The psychiatrists’ wife is brought to life by Leony Spilsbury – who we prefered in her role earlier in the play as the bear, mainly because of the stereotypical portrayal of a 50’s woman is spot on (unfeminist, scalding, cleaning) but also because we loved how the actors managed to bring the puppetry to life so convincingly. I can only imagine it came with a few laughs during reharsals.
As the psychiatrist and his wife continually fail to tame the child, a relationship begins to blossom between Wild and the family dog. They join forces and finally escape back into the wild environment and I guess the story highlights here how we should accept people for who they are, rather than trying to change them into something else.
The show is a great example of children’s storytelling at its best. All the elements (the music, the stage design, the puppetry and the acting) come together to present a really engaging tale that the young audience adored. It is aimed at ages 2 to 6 years old and would be a great introduction to theatre as it lasts only 50 minutes with no intervals (and the Unicorn Theatre is a relaxed space).
Tickets are £12 for children and £18 for adults. More info and bookings here.