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Dream choice for War Horse collaborators at Bristol Old Vic

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Bristol Old Vic has announced a new collaboration between artistic director Tom Morris and Handspring Puppet Company.

Following Bristol Old Vic’s £20 million redevelopment of it’s beautiful Georgian theatre, Morris today announced a major new production with the award-winning Handspring Puppet Company, with whom he previously collaborated on the theatrical phenomenon War Horse.

Handspring’s artistic director Adrian Kohler and executive producer Basil Jones joined him on stage to reveal that their next collaboration will be A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opening in March 2013 at Bristol Old Vic.

Prior to taking his current role at Bristol Old Vic in 2009, Tom Morris was associate director of the National Theatre, where he co-directed War Horse and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, adapted A Matter of Life and Death and developed Coram Boy. In 2011 he was awarded a Tony Award for Best Director (with Marianne Elliott) for his work on War Horse.

Cape Town based Handspring Puppet Company was founded in 1981 and provides an artistic home 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. The run-away success of War Horse has established Handspring as one of the most important puppet companies in the world.

Speaking at the launch Tom Morris said: “In October 1995 I fell in love with a hyena. It was the star of a show called Faustus in Africa, designed by Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppet Company, and it looked as if it was alive.

I’ve followed and occasionally been lucky enough to work with Handspring ever since. They are the greatest puppet company in the world and it is a huge thrill to be able to invite them to Bristol to collaborate with us on this experimental version of Shakespeare’s sexiest and most magical comedy”

Kohler and Jones added: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream takes place in a world where magic and the fairies are palpable to the people in it. It’s been great once again to be exploring new terrain with Tom Morris and to meet our designer Vicky Mortimer. The quest to find our Athens together has already been a joyous journey and the chance to transplant what we have discovered onto the newly born ancient stage of Bristol Old Vic is both an honour and extremely exciting.”

The project is described as in an “experimental” phase, with movement and interaction between puppet and performer still being thrashed out, so exact details are scarce. However, we do know that casting for multi-disciplined performers is in progress, and that rehearsals will begin in Bristol in January 2013. The majority of the puppets have been designed and are being developed at Handspring’s studio in South Africa. These are being kept well and truly under wraps but we are promised an exciting array of puppetry, from the simple, barely animated, right through to stunning articulated creations of the like seen in War Horse. Some of the puppets will be made in Bristol using local artisans, and Handspring are forging important links with local talent to help overcome some of the many technical issues a production of this scale throws up.

Vicky Mortimer's design promises to exploit the extra-ordinary depth of the BOV stage and create a rich and magical world for Shakespeare’s mythical characters to inhabit, where the set will blend with and blur the edges between prop and puppet, the inanimate and the animated, and create a thrillingly unpredictable environment.

The production marks a significant step forward for Bristol Old Vic and its ongoing ambition to collaborate with world-class artists to originate work of international impact. Following its run in Bristol the production will transfer to the Spoleto Festival USA and then the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven. Further national and international dates will follow in 2014.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A Bristol Old Vic production in association with Handspring Puppet Company
28 Feb – 4 May 2013


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