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The incredible story of a boy and his horse in wartimes, adapted from Michael Morpugo's novel for young adults, is brought to life by talented puppeteers and gifted actors in an amazingly real-life environment.
Packing theatres in London, New York and Toronto, War Horse has exceeded expectations around the world. Currently being produced for Australian audiences, this is an intricate and large-scale production that will thrill and astonish audiences.
We chatted to Associate Puppetry Director, Finn Caldwell, whose CV includes Shrek and a swag of classical productions.
So, Finn, when you say 'puppets'…
What do I mean? Glove puppet? This is a common theme in my life! People say, "You do puppets? Do you do kids' shows?"
For those of us who missed the 1982 book and 2011 Spielberg film, what’s the show about?
The story is about a boy, Albert, and his horse, Joey. It’s really a love story about that bond and how the war takes away that bond.
It sounds like it’s a sad animal play. Are we going to cry?
Yes! You very quickly believe that the puppets are real. The company who designed the puppets started with the anatomy of a horse so the movements are physiologically accurate. Then we train the puppeteers to think like horses!
I know it sounds mad but its just like any actor needs to understand the part to play it realistically. Horses think very differently from humans. For instance, they’re flight animals – they get into a conflict and what they want to do is run away. This has to inform how the puppets move in the big fight scene.
So are you a puppet horse whisperer?
Well I’m the puppeteer whisperer! I will audition and train the new puppeteers for the Australian production of War Horse, which opens in December 2012.
So are there lots of puppeteers coming to audition for you?
There’s nothing that can prepare you for the job. We look at everyone from actors to people with circus skills, but the most essential skill is that they can act. Joey doesn’t talk. He isn’t a horse representing a human being, he really is a horse. He has to carry your attention and tell a story for more than two hours so the puppeteers need to have a real sense of the narrative.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
When I first saw the horses I had the most incredible reaction, an electric sensation up and down my spine. I saw these horses interacting with human beings, reacting to shadows and I knew I had to do this show. Something magical happens on stage; its amazing to be part of.