ArtHouse Jersey commissioned theatre innovators who worked on War Horse to write and perform new play in Jersey.
As part of the Jersey Festival of Words, ArtHouse Jersey recently commissioned the puppetry director and associate director of ‘War Horse’, a play that has thrilled West End audiences in London, to produce a new play in Jersey. It’s first informal showing was performed at this year’s Festival on Saturday 29 September.
‘Jackie the Baboon’ is a puppetry play that tells the remarkable true story of a baboon who is taken to war as a mascot by the 3rd South African infantry. Jackie is given a uniform and serves in the trenches of the First World War where he encounters humanity at its best and worst.
Image from 'work-in-progress' performance at Jersey Festival of Words (Peter Mourant).
In an exciting coup for the growing Jersey arts scene, writer, Andy Brunskill, and puppeteer director, Jimmy Grimes, worked on the play throughout September as guests of ArtHouse Jersey. The whole theatre company - actors, the composer, stage managers and designers - based themselves in the Island rehearsing at Greve de Lecq Barracks for an extended period, as they prepared for the first full performance of the play. A Jersey audience was the first to see a full informal work-in-progress performance at the Jersey Arts Centre on Saturday 29 September, before it was shared with audiences at Guildford School for Acting and the Omnibus Theatre in London.
A work in progress sketch of the Jackie puppet.
ArtHouse Jersey, previously known as the Jersey Arts Trust, supports artists from Jersey and across the world to create inspiring, high-quality work that makes a positive impact on our Island community. ArtHouse Jersey commissioned the production in association with the Jersey Festival of Words as part of the Island’s commemorations of the First World War. It has been made possible through a grant from the First World War Steering Group arranged by the Bailiff’s Chambers. ArtHouse Jersey are currently looking for industry partners to develop the project further. It is anticipated that the finished play will provide the basis for schools workshops and outreach opportunities within the wider community in 2019.
Andy and Jimmy first met working as Associate Director and Puppet Director of ‘War Horse’ in the West End. They have since created work for venues and companies including The Young Vic, the Orange Tree, Theatre Royal Bath and Longleat Safari Park. Their plays always focus on animals as the starting point, and include at least one puppet at the centre of their stories. Their work is also well known for its strong visuals and epic music, as well as being work that everyone can enjoy.
Andy Brunskill said: "When we’re working together I direct and write, and Jimmy designs and directs the puppetry. We make our shows through a long, collaborative approach with designers, composers, academics, actors, puppeteers and a whole range of artists through our unique process. We also like working with new people and frequently train actors and puppeteers through our process."
Tom Dingle, Director of ArtHouse Jersey, said: “This is a hugely exciting project for Jersey. We were delighted to be able to support ‘Brunskill and Grimes’ to realise this enlightening tale that not only offers a unique perspective on the events of the First World War but also makes a wider comment on our relationship to the animal world and to those of other cultures and experiences. We would like to thank the Jersey Festival of Words for providing the ideal platform to share this story with the Jersey public for a special scratch showing, ahead of the play being further developed and performed more widely in 2019. We are also grateful to the Bailiff’s Chambers and First World War Steering Group for making this project possible.’
Q&A following the Jersey Festival or Words 'scratch' performance.
More information about the ongoing development of the project in 2019 will be announced by ArtHouse Jersey on their website in the future.