Thomp­son makes mu­sic on War Horse..............

Af­ter a long jour­ney, this folk singer is re­turn­ing home on the stage, writes Lisa Sim­mons

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY CONTENTS -

LIKE the main char­ac­ters in War Horse, folk mu­si­cian John Thomp­son’s ad­ven­tures with the stage show have crossed con­ti­nents and brought him home again.

Thomp­son, of Bris­bane, quit his job as a le­gal aid lawyer a decade ago to con­cen­trate on mu­sic, per­form­ing as half of a folk duo called cloud street with his part­ner Ni­cole Mur­ray.

The pair, who some­times gigged for lo­cal fans at The Arts Cen­tre Gold Coast, were in the UK play­ing at a sum­mer folk fes­ti­val when Thomp­son re­ceived an email invit­ing him to au­di­tion for War Horse.

‘‘At that point I didn’t even know there was to be an Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion,’’ Thomp­son re­calls.

‘‘But let’s be clear – any­one with an an in­ter­est in folk mu­sic knows about War Horse be­cause of it use of tra­di­tional song is so in­trin­sic to the sto­ry­line. I was in­trigued.’’

Thomp­son had his first au­di­tion in the UK and his sec­ond on Skype be­fore he landed the role of The Song Man, a char­ac­ter who plays squeeze box and per­forms tra­di­tional Ir­ish folk songs as a link be­tween scenes.

‘‘I sup­pose you’d call me the Ir­ish ver­sion of a one-man Greek cho­rus,’’ Thomp­son says, laugh­ing.

War Horse is the tale of a horse called Joey, sold to the cav­alry at the out­break of World War I and shipped to France. There, he is caught in en­emy fire and serves on both sides be­fore find­ing him­self alone in no man’s land. His owner Al­bert can­not for­get his pet. Though not old enough to en­list, he sets off to find him and bring him home.

Any­one who saw Steven Spiel­berg’s block­buster film of the same name will recog­nise the story, but they may not know it was adapted from a Lon­don stage hit that used pup­pets to re­cre­ate as­ton­ish­ingly life­like horses.

The National Theatre of Great Bri­tain’s Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion fea­tures a cast of 30-plus as well as the show­stop­ping life­size pup­pets, cre­ated by South Africa’s hand­spring Pup­pet Com­pany, which stunned au­di­ences over­seas.

Hav­ing ap­peared in War Horse sea­sons in Melbourne and Syd­ney, Thomp­son looks for­ward to per­form­ing the show for fam­ily and friends in his home town. It bumps in to Queens­land Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre’s Lyric Theatre this week ahead of its of­fi­cial open­ing on July 11.

Hav­ing never imag­ined a ca­reer that in­cluded a big stage de­but, Thomp­son has en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence of tour­ing with the large com­pany.

‘‘A tour like this is geared so peo­ple like my­self can get out on stage and do what they do – for me that’s sing,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s a mas­sive op­er­a­tion and in­cludes peo­ple with job de­scrip­tions like physio and speech pathol­o­gist. And be­lieve it or not, I have had rea­son to use their ser­vices from time to time.’’

War Horse plays QPAC’s Lyric Theatre un­til Au­gust 4. Go to qpac.com.au to book.

War Horse star Lin­coln Hall ap­pears as guest in The Green­room Pro­ject at The Base­ment at The Arts Cen­tre Gold Coast on July 15.

John Thomp­son in a scene from the Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion of War Horse.

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