War Horse's equine star Joey has found himself a new stable. The original life-size puppet used in the play has been acquired by London's Victoria and Albert Museum, and will be displayed in its Theatre and Performance galleries from tomorrow, 18 October.
The extraordinarily lifelike puppetry of South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company is one of the major attractions of War Horse, which found its feet at the National Theatre in 2007 and continues to run at the West End's New London Theatre.
The Joey puppet has been donated to the V & A by Handspring's Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, who created him and the other puppets used in the show. Its display will show how Joey is operated on stage.
Three mannequins representing puppeteers will be displayed with Joey, wearing costumes designed by Olivier Award-winning theatre designer and illustrator Rae Smith. An interactive video by 59 Productions will provide the behind-the-scenes story.
The V & A's Joey made his debut at the New London Theatre in March 2009, cantering through more than 1,640 shows there with the assistance of 20 puppeteers.
It takes three puppeteers to bring Joey to life. Using the Japanese Bunraku style of puppetry, they remain visible while articulating the horse's limbs and conveying his emotions and breathing with convincing accuracy.
'War Horse is undoubtedly one of the most memorable theatre productions of the 21st century and is an example of one the most spectacular and captivating set designs in the theatre industry,' the V & A's director Martin Roth said.
'We are thrilled to acquire the original horse puppet. Joey demonstrates the skill and ingenuity of the Handspring Puppet Company in creating a remarkably life-like puppet which audiences across the world connect and empathise with throughout the performance.'
Joey's designers Kohler and Jones added, '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 honored that Joey will have a permanent home in this great institution.'