A puppeteering company based in Cape Town, the Handspring Puppet Company, has been named as a Tony award winner.
The company created the life-size and lifelike cane-and-plywood horse puppets used for the play ‘War Horse’.
Basil Jones, a co-founder of Handspring, spoke to The Associated Press.
“It was wonderful to be able to announce it on the factory floor 10 minutes ago,” he said in a telephone interview.
The play is based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo and is about horses sent to the battlefields during World War I. It opened in 2007 at London’s National Theatre.
Handspring has worked with leading South African artists, including William Kentridge, who is best known for his animated movies.
“I think it’s fantastic that their years of work and their extraordinary skill gets this recognition,” Kentridge said of the Tony.
The work of Handspring Puppet Company has appeared on stages in South Africa, Europe and the United States.
Jones said the roots of War Horse were in a production called “Tall Horse” which Handspring did with a Malian puppet company, and which a National Theatre creative team saw in South Africa. He had hoped that the National Theatre team would take “Tall Horse” to London. Instead, they approached the company with a proposal to do a work based on animals and war.
After that, Handspring had to come up with a way to portray a cavalry charge and riders on horses.
Twelve Handspring craftsmen created the. The puppets do not need to be worked by professional puppeteers, though Handspring sent one of its own puppeteers to London for the first season.