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War Horse rides to the rescue

war-horse New London September 2012 A scene from War Horse, a show that won best sound design for a play at the Tony Awards in 2011. Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg
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Am I grateful for the artistic and commercial success of War Horse. Never more so than when we published this week’s front page story.

You could predict the sneers that would have greeted Central principal Gavin Henderson’s doughty defence of drama subsidy in which he rightly cited his school’s contribution to professional puppetry.

It’s all too easy to dismiss this often-underestimated skill as glorified kids’ play, especially when its claims to subsidy are set against the unassailable STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths) subjects.

[pullquote]Comforting to think of those magnificent steeds are waiting in the reserve to ride roughshod over the philistines[/pullquote]

Or rather it may have been until Joey came galloping to the rescue.

I could take up column inches here with all the details but click here instead for more

Suffice to say I counted 25 awards across West End, Broadway, Off-West End and Off-Broadway. Messrs Spencer and Billington gave particular attention to the puppetry as “truly magnificent” and a “skilled recreation”.

If money’s your yardstick then consider a million-plus audience members, 97% houses and productions across the world.

As Gavin reminds us, a good part of the talent behind that achievement derived from his college’s ground-breaking course.

Don’t let it be imagined that puppetry needs War Horse to justify its entire existence. It’s just comforting to think of those magnificent steeds are waiting in the reserve to ride roughshod over the philistines.


* Thank you to our small band of actors who took time out recently to take part in a round table discussion at the The Stage office in London SE1.

The subject: performers sharing their thoughts on casting in a short conversation chaired by our Dear John columnist, John Byrne. Our sample may have been small but represented a diverse example of the profession today.

Credit to Karl Moffatt, Norma Atallah, John Barr, Ayesha Casely-Hayford and regular Linked In contributor Katy Daghorn. You can read Henry Bird’s write up of the event in the issue of September 5 and thanks to our social media exec Emma Harper, the whole thing will be on audio too.

The buzz from that event has convinced me there’s mileage in doing more of these – giving performers (and backstage worker) of every description the chance to have their say on key issues.

Our Linked In group, The Stage Media Company, is an obvious place to seek recruits, so do join us here and let me know below if this is something you might welcome reading about.



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