Thompson makes music on War Horse..............
After a long journey, this folk singer is returning home on the stage, writes Lisa Simmons
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.