Original puppets from the smash-hit play, War Horse – Joey, Topthorn, the Goose and a pair of crows – will all head to Bonhams in London on 13 September 2016, to be sold at an evening charity auction in aid of the Handspring Trust. Joey and Topthorn will make a special appearance on the night for guests.
The Victoria and Albert Museum was the first to acquire one of these magnificent puppets in 2013. In all eight sets were made, of which three are being preserved for future productions. Being one of five remaining sets, this set will be signed and numbered 1/5 by Adrian Kohler, Handspring’s Master Puppeteer.
War Horse, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, is the most successful play ever mounted by the Royal National Theatre of London. During its eight-year run in London’s West End and tour to 11 countries around the world, War Horse was seen by more than seven million people worldwide. The heart-breaking story, set during the First World War, revolves around Albert, a young Devon farmer’s boy, whose beloved horse Joey is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. Albert resolves to bring Joey home.
The puppets, which are central to the success of the play, were designed and made in South Africa by Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of Handspring Puppet Company, assisted by an array of highly creative artisans employed by the company between 2010 and 2014. Each set of puppets for War Horse took eight months to create and are made of cane, leather and tyvec, (for the manes and tails), a material used in book-binding. The torsos are reinforced with aluminium and strong enough to carry a rider.
Bonhams Director of African Art, Giles Peppiatt says: “War Horse captured hearts round the world including famously that of H.M. The Queen. This is a one-off opportunity to acquire a piece of theatrical legend and benefit a great cause.”
Handspring Trust was founded by Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of Handspring Puppet Company and is, in its own words, “a not-for-profit organization seeking to inspire creativity, commitment and innovation towards new puppet theatre arts”. The trust’s main focus is on a group of young people in Barrydale. Each December, a National Day of Reconciliation is celebrated and they produce a parade and performance of giant puppets using Handspring’s team of puppet makers and theatre producers. 2016 sees the seventh and most ambitious staging of this much anticipated event.
The charity auction evening is being sponsored by Investec the international banking and asset management group.