In this edition we have news of current and upcoming Productions:

  • War Horse to Joburg & Cape Town

  • Ubu & The Truth Commission premières for South Africa, Europe, Asia, UK & the South American tour continues.


  • Cape Town – Southern Guild Exhibition

  • Joey Appearances Around Town

  • Washington – Installation view

  • San Francisco – Installation view

Handspring Trust

  • Trust Puppetry Residencies

  • Visi Magazine Feature

  • Dedication to Sean Blumberg 

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Award-winning International Stage Production Comes Home

Joey comes Home – Star of War Horse, the Handspring Horse. Photo: Simon Annand

War Horse will make a South African première later this year for a season at Montecasino’s Teatro in Johannesburg (October/November), before transferring to Artscape’s Opera in Cape Town (December).

Pieter Toerien, Rand Merchant Bank and The National Theatre of Great Britain, in association with Handspring Puppet Company bring home the production. Ironically the show makes a return to Cape Town despite never having played here. That’s because ‘every single puppet used in War Horse is hand-crafted by Handspring Puppet Company in Cape Town, so bringing the show to South Africa is a particularly special moment in the history of this show.’ London producer, Chris Harper.

The production has been seen by nearly 5 million people worldwide since its opening at the National Theatre in 2007.  During its successful run on Broadway, it received five Tony Awards, plus a special Tony Award for Handspring Puppet Company.  It was the longest running show in Toronto and recently toured Australia.  It is now in its sixth successful year in London’s West End, on a major tour of North America, is running in Berlin (German language version, Gefährten) and is on a sell-out tour of the UK and Ireland.  A new production will open in Amsterdam in June and tour the Netherlands.

“I fell in love with War Horse when it first opened at the National Theatre in London nearly 7 years ago. The brilliant actors and the genius of the Handspring Puppet Company made War Horse an absolutely extraordinary evening in the theatre.  I was determined to bring it to our audience, so a dream is about to come true for me.” Pieter Toerien, South African theatre impresario

War Horse is the powerful story of a young boy called Albert and his beloved horse, Joey, who has been requisitioned to fight for the British in World War I. Caught in enemy crossfire, Joey ends up serving on both sides during the war before landing in No Man’s Land, while Albert, not old enough to enlist, embarks on a treacherous mission to find his horse and bring him home.  A remarkable tale of courage, loyalty and friendship, War Horse features ground-breaking puppetry work by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, which brings breathing and galloping horses to life on stage.

Rand Merchant Bank unashamedly celebrates and rewards exceptional talent. Their 32-year-old business philosophy of Traditional Values, Innovative Ideas, supports creative and intellectual excellence.

22 Oct – 30 Nov 2014 Teatro de Montecasino, Johannesburg
5 Dec 2014 – 4 Jan 2015 Artscape Opera, Cape Town

R100 – R450 online via Computicket, the Call Centre (Mon-Sat 8am-8pm, Public Holidays 9am-2pm) 0861-915-8000 – Option 2, or for Group Bookings:
JNB: (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri) Geraldine Swanepoel 011-511-1988
CPT: (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri) Tracy Cahill 021-438-3301 (option 2)

Ubu Premières for South Africa, Europe, Asia & UK.


William Kentridge’s Ubu and the Truth Commission has been revived with Janni Younge as Associate Director led by original cast members Dawid Minnaar and Busi Zokufa with Gabriel Marchand, Mongi Mnthombeni and Mandiseli Maseti joining the team.

South African Dates
Monday 7 July 19:30, Rhodes Theatre, Grahamstown
Tuesday 8 July 14:30 &19:30, Rhodes Theatre, Grahamstown
Wednesday 9 July 14:30 & 19:30, Rhodes Theatre, Grahamstown

Bookings on the National Festival Website from 2 May
Group Bookings, Dion van Niekerk 046 6031186

International Dates

Ubu opened last night in Bogotá and plays till Saturday. 16 – 19 April
28 – 30 June European première, Festival de Marseille, France
15 – 17 August Asian première, Taipei Culture Foundation, Taiwan
28 – 31 August, UK première, Edinburgh International Festival

Other dates to be announced shortly.

Pa Ubu (Dawid Minnaar) with the Dogs of War. Photo: Robyn Swart

Theatre for Peace and Reconciliation

Janni Younge writes: “While plans are underway for premières in South Africa, Europe, UK and Asia,Ubu is currently touring in South America.

Ubu seems to have had a special relevance in so many of the destinations it has toured to. Not only are Human Rights abuses a worldwide phenomenon, but as systems change, countries are consistently examining their past and taking responsibility for society losing the rudders.

We arrived in Sao Paolo to participate in the first theatre festival (MITsp) in 30 years. At the festival we heard that Brazil is engaged in its own Truth Commission. The show was free and people queued round the block for 3 hours to gain access. After two performances and warm standing ovations we left, so glad to have made a contribution.

We’re in Bogotá now for the XIV Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogotá, which is an extraordinary event. Massive audiences crowd into shows from around the world. Ubu’s five performances (in a 340 seater) have been sold out for 3 weeks. Even one of the principal festival organisers can’t get in – we fortunately had a company comp to give! There is an important art promotion market and significant visual art exhibitions including a solo show by William Kentridge.

Jane Taylor, William Kentridge, Gabriel Marchand and myself, together with journalists and other artists from Bogotá, delivered a series of talks, conversations and workshops to a very special group of participants. People affected by political, drug related and guerrilla violence have come together from all over Colombia, about 40 have come specifically for the Handspring related events and to see Ubu. All the participants have some background in arts related work and their participation has been open-hearted, moving and beautiful. We are honoured to have been invited to make this intervention.

Ubu plays till Saturday in Bogotá before premièring in Europe, South Africa, Asia and the United Kingdom.

Memorial Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, opened in 2012 – Bogotá, Colombia. Handspring’s puppetry workshop took place here. Photo: Janni Younge

“Stunningly theatrical multimedia piece that drives home the atrocity known as apartheid without ever uttering the words ‘atrocity’ or ‘apartheid’ or any like them. By turns chilling and hilarious, brutal and forgiving, the show casts a surreal light on the heart of darkness — and still manages to leave you with hope. ‘Ubu’ is one of those rarities, a piece of political theatre that transcends politics.” – William Triplett, The Washington Post

UBU ”will be for post-apartheid theatre what Woza Albert was for protest theatre: a touchstone” –  Mark Gevisser – The Sunday Independent

“executed with consummate artistry…The witnesses, who are represented by puppet-figures, exist on another scale, and a great deal of their meaning arises out of this fact” – Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times

After one performance, a Romanian woman, deeply moved by what she had seen, approached the cast to congratulate it. Surprise was expressed that a play of such local context could have been accessible to her. “That’s it,” she explained. “It is so local. So local. This play is written about Romania.”

Ubu and the Truth Commission is a Handspring Puppet Company and Quaternaire co-production with Edinburgh International Festival (United Kingdom), The Taipei Arts Festival and Taipei Culture Foundation (Taiwan), Festival de Marseille danse et arts multiples (France), Onassis Cultural Centre (Greece), Cal Performances Berkeley (USA) and BOZAR Brussels (Belgium). Further tours are being planned for Europe, Asia and USA. To book this production for your theatre, kindly contact Sarah Ford at Quaternaire, Paris 


Joey Around Town

Two Topthorns at Guild – Exhibition of Design

The opening in February of the Southern Guild design exhibition, Guild, at the Lookout Pavillion in the Waterfront coincided with the Cape Town Art Fair and the annual Design Indaba, all of which kicked off the city’s year as World Design Capital 2014. Two mounted horse puppets (Topthorns) and several appearances of the live Joey were part of an early build-up to the announcement of the arrival of War Horse in the city and included appearances at both performances of Starlight Classicsat Vergelegen.

War Horse puppets exhibited at the Guild exhibition. Photo: Adriaan Louw

Joey at the Guild Exhibition Party. Photo: Lindy Truter Photography

Out of Horse

Joey Puppeteers Warm Up

Nkosinathi Mngomezulu (Head Puppeteer), Nkemiseng Khena (Hind Puppeteer) and Joel Lee Bosman (Heart Puppeteer). Photo: Mark Loubser

Or You Could Kiss Me puppets in San Francisco

SFMOMA & YBCA Exhibition Open till June 29

Puppets from left: Young Mr A, Old Mr B, Young Mr B, Old Mr A. Photo: Ian Reeves

Disrupting expected images of South Africa, the 25 contemporary artists and collectives featured inPublic Intimacy eloquently explore the poetics and politics of the everyday. This collaboration with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents pictures from SFMOMA’s collection of South African photography alongside works in a broad range of media, including video, painting, sculpture, performance, and publications — most made in the last five years, and many on view for the first time on the West Coast. Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, Public Intimacy reveals the nuances of human interaction in a country still undergoing significant change, vividly showing public life there in a more complex light.

Public Intimacy includes works by Ian Berry, Ernest Cole, David Goldblatt, Handspring Puppet Company, Nicholas Hlobo, ijusi (Garth Walker), Anton Kannemeyer, William Kentridge, Donna Kukama, Terry Kurgan, Sabelo Mlangeni, Santu Mofokeng, Billy Monk, Zanele Muholi, Sello Pesa and Vaughn Sadie with Ntsoana Contemporary Dance Theatre, Cameron Platter, Lindeka Qampi, Jo Ractliffe, Athi-Patra Ruga, Berni Searle, Penny Siopis, Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, and Kemang Wa Lehulere. Source: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

‘Raw to Real’ in Washington, D.C.

Installation of Handspring’s work, Hall of Nations – Kennedy Center, Washington

Helen of Troy and the Band from Faustus in Africa. Photo: Basil Jones

To coincide with the arrival of the Bristol Old Vic/Handspring Production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the World Stages Festival at the Kennedy Centre in Washington in March, we were invited to mount an exhibition of puppets for one on the large foyers, ‘The Hall of Nations’. Adrien Gardere of Studio Gardere in Paris who have often designed for the Kennedy Centre, devised an exhibItion that began with raw materials and drawings, proceded through some half finished figures, included a parade of about fifty finished puppets from several shows and ended with a rearing Joey.

Handspring Trust

Trust Puppetry Residencies

Masiphumelele Youth Development Photo: James Nilsen

This April marks the beginning of a year’s residency for 10 youths from Masiphumelele and Smitsville. Various projects will include preparations for the annual Barrydale Parade as well as puppet making, performance workshops and the devising of a new play for Masi. Theatre director and puppeteer, Mongi Mthombeni, artist in residence at the University of the Western Cape, will direct new productions for Handspring Trust in association with Net Vir Pret and Masiphumelele Youth Development. The programme will continue through March 2015.

This project is made possible by The Department of Social DevelopmentThe Department of Public Works’ Expanded Public Works Programme and the Centre for Humanities Research at theUniversity of the Western Cape.

Barrydale Parade featured in VISI magazine

Special World Design Capital 2014 Commemoration Issue.

Visi magazine has put together a celebration of all South African design and creativity that is world-class. The Issue has the Barrydale Parade project at no.24 of the 33 projects featured.

“Once a year, magic reigns in the sleepy dorp of Barrydale when people and puppets march through the town in the Day of Reconciliation Parade. Crowds line the streets to watch merry processions swinging colourful decorations, following behind larger-than-life puppets (this time designed by former Handspring puppet-maker, Andy Mias-Jones of Shrinkray). The event sees the Handspring giving back to the community, by training youngsters to build puppets and make decorations from recycled items. It’s done in collaboration with Net vir Pret, an NGO that organises afterschool and holiday activities for local children, and the Magpie Art Collective that runs craft projects in the community. Here’s how the procession unfolded… (Elna van der Merwe for Visi Magazine).

Elephant Puppets designed by former Handspring puppet-maker, Andy Mias-Jones of Shrinkray. Photo: Adriaan Oosthuizen.

Barrydale Parade Documentary

When the See Comes to the Karoo

When the See Comes to the Karoo. Video: Jonathan Jones – Urban Lung Productions

This documentary, When the Sea Comes to the Karoo, follows the making of the Barrydale Parade 2013 and the production The Karoo Sea presented on the Day of Reconciliation in Barrydale. The festivities focus on reconciliation to bring the two side of the town together to enjoy a visual spectacle. Using near life size elephant puppets, goldfish made out of plastic bags and a sea in the Karoo, the cast lure us into a space where children are happily children again and where reconciliation starts with a conversation.

The video features puppets designed by former Handspring puppet maker, Andy Mias-Jones of Shrinkray, Dylan Hesh – Net Vir Pret youth leader, Mongi Mthombeni – Karoo See director, Peter Takelo – founder Net Vir Pret, Shane Petzer – Magpie Art Collective, music by Mongi Mthobeni and additional footage by Graham Abbot. Video by Jonathan Jones of Urban Lung Productions.

The 2013 Barrydale Parade and Karroo See was presented by the Blumberg Family FoundationHandspring TrustNet Vir PretMagpie Art CollectiveCentre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape and the SArCHi Chair in Social Change at the University of Fort Hare. 

Barrydale Parade 2013 Dedicated to Sean Blumberg

The 2013 Barrydale Parade was dedicated to the memory of Sean Blumberg (1976 – 2012), who passed away on 26 August 2012. Sean had been very much part of the fundraising effort that saw more than CAN $20,000 raised for Handspring Trust when the Blumbergs of Toronto, (formerly of Port Elizabeth) put together a wonderful evening’s entertainment for their extended network of friends and colleagues. The focus was the final dress rehearsal of War Horse preceded by a talk by Basil and Adrian, and followed by wine, canapés and conversation. The money raised via this highly successful event helped fund much of the 2013 Barrydale Parade. Sean’s loving parents, Henry and Marcia Blumberg have been personal friends of Basil & Adrian over many years and helped inter alia to facilitate bringing Woyzeck on the Highveld to the Harbourfront World Stage Festival in Toronto in April 1994.

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