The global theatre phenomenon, War Horse will be making its South African première later this year, beginning with a season at The Teatro at Montecasino in Johannesburg in October before transferring to the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town in December.

War Horse will be presented in South Africa by Pieter Toerien, Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) and The National Theatre of Great Britain, in association with Handspring Puppet Company. The production has been seen by over 5 million people worldwide since its opening at the National Theatre in 2007. During its successful run on Broadway, it received five Tony Awards, plus a special Tony Award for Handspring Puppet Company.

Says Pieter Toerien, “I fell in love with War Horse when it first opened at the National Theatre in London nearly 7 years ago. The brilliant actors and the genius of South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company made War Horse an absolutely extraordinary evening in the theatre. I was determined to bring it to our audience so a dream is about to come true for me”.

Chris Harper, the producer of War Horse said: “The design, artistry and craftsmanship of Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler and everyone at Handspring Puppet Company has delighted War Horse audiences around the world. Every single puppet used in the show was hand-crafted in Cape Town at Handspring’s puppet factory, and it is only fitting that they are returning to the country where they were created, to be enjoyed by South African audiences.”

War Horse is the powerful story of a young boy called Albert and his beloved horse, Joey, who has been requisitioned to fight for the British in World War I. Caught in enemy crossfire, Joey ends up serving on both sides during the war before landing in No Man’s Land, while Albert, not old enough to enlist, embarks on a treacherous mission to find his horse and bring him home. A remarkable tale of courage, loyalty and friendship, War Horse features groundbreaking puppetry work by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, which brings breathing and galloping horses to life on stage.

Based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo, who has written over 100 books and was Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005, War Horse has been beautifully adapted by Nick Stafford. The production is directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, designed by Rae Smith, lighting is by Paule Constable and movement and horse choreography by Toby Sedgwick. The puppet design and puppetry directors are Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, with video design by 59 Productions Ltd, song-making by John Tams, music by Adrian Sutton and sound by Christopher Shutt.

The War Horse UK company comprises of James Alper (Stewart/Heine/Ludwig), Lee Armstrong (Albert Narracott), Peter Ash (Billy Narracott/Klebb/Heine), Emily Aston (Paulette), Nisa Cole (Emilie), Joe Darke (Topthorn Heart), David Fleeshman (Arthur Narracott), Adam Foster (Bone/Fine), Bob Fox (Song Man), Jason Furnival (Carter/Strauss), Tom Gilbey (Joey Head), Oliver Grant (Topthorn Head), Finn Hanlon (Captain Nicholls/Schweyk), Karl Haynes (Greig/Vet Martin), Karen Henthorn (Rose Narracott), Steven Hillman (Ted Narracott), Michael Humphreys (Joey Heart), Linford Johnson (Topthorn Hind), Andrew Keay (Joey Hind), Rebecca Killick (Baby Joey/Annie Gilbert), Tom Larkin (Double Hind), John Leader (Double Heart), Helen Macfarlane (Baby Joey/Matron Callagher), Sean McKenzie (Priest/Thunder), Alex Moran (Baby Joey/David), Suzanne Nixon (Double Hind), Tom Norman (Double Heart), Joseph Richardson (Goose/Bugle/Schnabel), Paul Simpson (Klausen), Gavin Swift (Geordie), Simeon Truby (Allan/Manfred), Peter Twose (Double Head), Richard Vorster (Double Head) and Martin Wenner (Friedrich).

War Horse is in its sixth successful year in London’s West End, on a major tour of North America, is running in Berlin (in German and called Gefährten) and is on a sell-out tour of the UK and Ireland. A new production will open in Amsterdam in June as part of the Holland Festival and then tour to five Cities in the Netherlands in September.

As a brand, Rand Merchant Bank celebrates and rewards exceptional talent. RMB’s 32-year-old business philosophy of “Traditional values. Innovative ideas.” is reinforced through arts events RMB supports – from William Kentridge’s innovative interpretation and directorship of Mozart’s traditionally classical Magic Flute, in 2007 – to helping bring the world-renowned War Horse theatre production to South Africa. War Horse is a play that lives, breathes and challenges the imagination, making it a compelling branding partnership for RMB, as our alignment with creative and intellectual excellence in arts is an opportunity for the art of business to embrace the business of the arts. Helping to publically showcase SA’s arts, culture and heritage as a country differentiator and international calling card, also contributes to Nation-building. An increasing number of premium quality arts initiatives remind us of how many creative, gifted South Africans are making a positive difference to our country’s destiny. It is a great honour for RMB to partner Pieter Toerien and Handspring Puppet Company in bringing War Horse home.

War Horse opens first at The Teatro at Montecasino in Fourways, Johannesburg on 22 October where it runs until 30 November 2014. The season at the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town is from 5 December 2014 until 4 January 2015. Tickets cost from R100 to R450 via Computicket or 08619158000. For group bookings please call Tracy in Cape Town on 0214383301 and Geraldine in Johannesburg on 0115111988.

About the National Theatre

The National Theatre of Great Britain is dedicated to the constant revitalisation of the great traditions of the British stage and to expanding the horizons of audiences and artists alike. Founded in 1963, and established on the South Bank in London in 1976, the National Theatre strives to be a national centre of theatrical arts, central to the creative life of the country and unmatched in the world for scale, range of repertoire and audience reach. The National stages over 20 new productions each year in one of its three South Bank theatres — the Olivier, the Lyttelton and the Cottesloe – and transfers popular shows to the West End as well as touring productions around the UK and internationally. In 2011-12, the paying audience for National Theatre productions reached 2.3million people worldwide, through attendances on the South Bank, in the West End and internationally, on tour and through National Theatre Live, the digital broadcast of live performances to cinema screens all over the world.

About Handspring Puppet Company

Handspring Puppet Company was founded in 1981 and has grown under the leadership of Artistic Director Adrian Kohler and Executive Producer Basil Jones for over 30 years. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, the company provides an artistic home and professional base for a core group of performers, designers, theatre artists and technicians. Handspring’s work has been presented in more than 30 countries around the world. In 1985 Handspring produced David Lytton’s Episodes of an Easter Rising – the company’s first play for adults. The success of the production led to collaborations with a string of talented directors: Esther van Ryswyk, Mark Fleishman, Malcolm Purkey, Barney Simon and William Kentridge. Handspring’s work with Kentridge continues to tour the world currently. Handspring has also created successful productions with artists from other parts of the African continent including Sogolon Puppet Troup from Mali and Koffi Koko from Benin. As the company’s international profile has grown works have been developed with directors and creative partners from Europe, the UK and the United States including Tom Morris, Neil Bartlett and Khephra Burns. Handspring’s most recent production Ouroboros, directed by Janni Younge, was presented at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town and toured to Belgium, France and India in 2013.

Due to the increase in popularity of puppetry both locally and internationally Handspring is experiencing high levels of demand on the company. To meet this demand, and in planning for the long-term future, the company has expanded its reach and incorporated leading puppetry artists into the core creative team. With a full time staff of five and numerous performing artists, Handspring Puppet Company is currently directed by Adrian Kohler and Janni Younge.

The Handspring Trust for Puppetry Arts, a non-profit organization, was established in 2010. The programs of the trust identify, mentor and champion the next generation of puppetry artists through workshops, academic engagement and ongoing projects in rural areas and townships. They support an annual street parade and performance in Barrydale on the Day of Reconciliation and the Masipumelele Youth Development Group’s puppet play Qhawe. These initiatives involve collaborations with the Centre for Humanities Studies at the University of the Western Cape, Net Vir Pret and the Magpie Art Collective and the Western Cape Government.

A message from Rand Merchant Bank

RMB sees corporate showcasing of excellence in arts as a way to increase public awareness of and pride in SA’s arts, culture and heritage, as a country differentiator. An increasing number of premium quality arts initiatives remind people of how many creative, gifted South Africans are eager to make a positive difference to the country’s destiny which is why RMB is honoured to bring War Horse to South Africa– even considering the volatility of the Rand. In 2011, RMB sponsored Topthorn as the guest of Honour at the annual Business Day/BASA Awards in Turbine Hall, New Town – Johannesburg. Basil and Adrian, Handspring’s founders, briefly shared some of the magic behind Topthorn’s “horsiness” and this was enough to fuel RMB’s quest to help bring War Horse home. We have been champing at the bit ever since to share this theatrical excellence with SA.

RMB respects Handspring Puppet Company as an extraordinarily innovative example of global best practice and excellence in the arts – from its ability to engage with our humanity, to its measurable economic impact in SA alone. The Handspring journey is one from seed to sustainability, with its showcase, life-size horse puppets staring in War Horse and powerfully placing South African design and creativity on the world stage. In order to perfect the BIG picture and effectively get audiences to suspend belief, the Handspring Team proved that the magic is indeed in the detail, and have solved hundreds of technical challenges to free up the horses for remarkable audience impact. The play, War Horse, appeals to its audience at a visceral level, perhaps just as horses are typically celebrated more for their advanced intuition, rather than their intelligence. Horses are a bit like traders in any investment bank – they respond strongly to their gut feelings, rather than only relying on their grey matter!

RMB is partnering Pieter Toerien Productions, the National Theatre (UK) and Handspring Company, because we feel it is the perfect symbol of our traditionally robust yet strongly innovative brand. TED Talks followers and 6 million War Horse fans outside South Africa can’t be wrong. Our teasing challenge to clients and friends will be: Is your imagination up to it?

For further information, please refer to the the www.warhorseonstage.com

War Horse at the New London Theatre  Photo by Brinkhoff Mögenburg 852-351

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