V&A acquires War Horse's original Joey puppet for collection

V&A acquires War Horse's original Joey puppet for collection

Updated On: May 1, 2018
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    The Handspring Puppet Company has donated Joey, the original West End puppet from WAR HORSE, to London's Victoria & Albert Museum. Joey will be permanently displayed in the V&A's Theatre and Performance Galleries from 18 October 2013 in a specially created display showing how the life-size puppet is operated on stage.

    Alongside Joey, visitors will also be able to use an iPad that features interviews from the show's creative team, as well as footage and animation from the award-winning adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel. The horse puppet acquired by the V&A made his stage debut at the New London Theatre on Saturday 28 March 2009. It has appeared in more than 1,640 shows and has been operated by over 20 puppeteers.

    Puppetry directors of WAR HORSE and Handspring, Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, said: “Ever since we first started visiting the V&A in our late teens, it has been a source of inspiration to us as artists. How wonderful that something Handspring has created will now become a source of inspiration for a new generation. We are delighted and feel hugely honoured that Joey will have a permanent home in this great institution.”

    Nick Starr, Executive Director of the National Theatre, added: “When WAR HORSE opened six years ago at the NT, it was inconceivable that the star of the show would find such an illustrious home. It is testament to the creative team and the many skilled puppeteers who have brought Joey to life over the years that a puppet made from cane, aluminium and leather is now in the world's leading museum of art and design.”

    On stage, Joey is operated by three puppeteers - the Head, the Heart and the Hind - who work together to create the character and noises of the horse. Using the Japanese Bunraku 'exposed’ style of puppetry, the manipulators can be seen on stage as they articulate the limbs of the horse and communicate its emotions and breathing with life-like accuracy.

    The puppet is made primarily of cane, leather and Tyvec (synthetic fibre) and its spine is reinforced with aluminium to allow for a rider on top. It takes eight months to build a complete set of puppets for WAR HORSE, all of which are handmade in Cape Town, South Africa by 14 craftsmen and women.

    WAR HORSE tells the story of a young boy Albert, and his beloved horse Joey, who has been requisitioned by the army to fight in World War I. While Joey is caught in enemy crossfire, Albert embarks on a treacherous mission to find his horse and bring him home.

    Seen by over 4 million people worldwide, WAR HORSE is booking at the New London Theatre until 14 February 2015. Find out more information about WAR HORSE.

    Find out more information about on-going and upcoming exhibitions at the V&A Museum.

    Photo: Joey in the V&A John Madejski Garden, Nicholas Hart (Head), Stuart Angell (Heart), Thomas Goodridge (Hind). © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.