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Lamphouse Theatre's production of Wild Boy at Crowland Abbey




The end of British Summer Time 2019 was a fitting moment to let imaginations run wild at Crowland Abbey on Sunday.

Wild Boy, the true story of how a child found in the woods of northern Germany ended up in a king's palace, was energetically put to mime, music and, at times, mayhem by Peterborough-based Lamphouse Theatre.

Seemingly taking their cue from the children's TV series Horrible Histories, actors Lydia Bakelmun, Abey Bradbury and Richard Parnwell took a potentially tragic story and gave it character, colour and culture.

Wild Boy, a high-energy dramatisation of the story behind Peter, the Wild Man of Hanover, was brough to Crowland by Lamphouse Theatre. (20325540)
Wild Boy, a high-energy dramatisation of the story behind Peter, the Wild Man of Hanover, was brough to Crowland by Lamphouse Theatre. (20325540)

The story itself centres on a young boy found in the woods outside a German town of Hamelin (of Pied Paper fame), now part of Lower Saxony province, who was unable to talk or walk on two feet.

Peter, as he went on to be named, came to the attention of King George I who "adopted" him as pet and later took him to England where his strange behaviour reputedly inspired authors Jonathan Swift (Gulliver's Travels) and Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe).

The care of Peter was eventually passed over to Princess Caroline who looked after his education and later sent him to work on a farm, with all these aspects of his life represented in the play.

Crowland Abbey hosted Lamphouse Theatre's production of Wild Boy.
Crowland Abbey hosted Lamphouse Theatre's production of Wild Boy.

Understandably, the "Wild Boy" theme was everywhere, including the music which was both sung and acted out by the three-person cast.

The songs had titles like "Are We Human After All?, "We're Wild Children" and "I'm Only Human...Don't Put Your Blame on Me".

During the play, the audience never actually saw Peter and were challenged instead to use their imagination in fitting him into the chaos created by the three actors.

But there were times for reflection too, particularly in the second half of Wild Boy when Peter's habit of wandering away from the farm was contrasted with his love of horses, nature and the sky at night.

Peter the Wild Boy of Hanover was once described by Swift as "The Most Wonderful Wonder that ever appeared to the Wonder of the British Nation".

Yet despite all efforts, Peter never learned to speak and ended up having a collar made for him in case he got lost.

In the hands of Lamphouse Theatre, it is almost certain that Crowland Abbey has never seen anything quite like Wild Boy in its 900-year history.

Review by Winston Brown


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