The horse, in all its power, muscle and majesty is brilliantly portrayed on stage in possibly the least likely of ways – the puppet.
A life-sized, moving, galloping, breathing horse puppet is hard to imagine, yet it has been. South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company brings full-scale horses to life with their flanks, hides and sinews built of steel, leather and aircraft cables.
Based on the celebrated novel by Michael Morpurgo and adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford, the British National Theatre’s epic production of War Horse hits South African theatres in December this year. The show has been seen by more than five million people worldwide, but never in South Africa; odd considering the 86 puppets that feature in the production are all made on our very own Capetonian soil. The audience is lead on a gripping journey through history and war, as seen through the eyes of a horse.
‘The challenge lay in making puppets light enough to carry but strong enough to carry a grown man,’ says Handspring’s Artistic Director Adrian Kohler. ‘I visited horse farms to observe their form and how they move, looked at skeletons of horses, depictions of horses in art and sculpturally, and modified it with horse movements.’
The show was developed with the intention of growing a broader audience for theatre in London. That intention remains steadfast in South Africa. ‘Theatre in Cape Town is interesting and actors are more interested in working with puppets now than before,’ says Adrian. ‘Theatre in South Africa, although not well funded, has a stellar selection of creative, passionate creators.’
Handspring Puppet Company provides an artistic platform for a core group of performers, designers, theatre artists and technicians. ‘We receive technical support from the film industry, and although the funding may not be on par with that of London, theatre makers in South Africa continue to plough on and make the work that they can within their resources.’
Where Artscape Opera House, DF Malan Street, Foreshore, CBD
Cost R100 to R450, www.computicket.com. Tickets are regrettably sold out.