John Leader, a Birmingham born actor who just graduated from East 15 where he trained in Physical Theatre in 2013. He spoke to us about his experiences so far as part of Joey the horse in the War Horse.
JL: A lot of training. I think is definitely a good place to start. I think working together as three people, a mini ensemble inside a horse just listening because we don't speak inside the horse so all the sounds are made by us. We don't speak so I think to learn a physical vocabulary between three of us that we can listen and breathe together, I think that goes into how to make it work.
JL: Yeah I think that's the great thing about what we're taught here is how to always be a horse. It sounds very weird, be the horse. There's obviously set choreography because you have to, for safety reasons, you can't have a big huge horse just galloping wherever he wants to gallop, but then a lot of the time we just get to be the horse. Someone drops a bucket on stage, we get to react to it and I think that's the amazing side, no two shows, even though you've watched it, watch this show tonight it will be completely different. We get to respond a lot of the time how we want to respond to what's going on around us.
How long did it take you to get used to it all?
JL: Get used to it? I think we're still getting used to it. No, I mean we're used to it now but we do two weeks rehearsal just puppeteers when we first start rehearsal and then we do another six weeks with the rest of the cast. It's eight weeks in rehearsals before we then take it on. I think, was a nice base and even when we open we don't know everything about it, we get to learn while being on the job so I think that's an amazing thing as well, we get to still learn while being in the horse.
One of the things I find impressive is even when you're not moving around on stage, how dto do you get the minute detail of the twitch of an ear or the flick of a tail like a real horse might do?
JL: So, what happens is all three of us each have an emotional indicator chord and they're normally things you pick up on. So the head, they have the ears, so they control the ears so the ears can listen to what is going on to whatever is going on at whatever time. In the heart I get the breathing, so if he's angry, I get a lot of that through the breathing and then in the back they get the tail so they get to swish the tail as well. I control the front legs, the head controls the head and the back controls the back two legs and we also have our emotional indicator so when you bring those things together I think that's when you look at it and you really see a horse.
Did you have to watch real horses to see how they behave?
JL:Yes, so we went to the National Horse Trust and we got to watch horses and I think, for me I was never a huge fan of horses but I can safely say after this I want a horse! I don't know how well it would go down having a horse in Birmingham, just in my back garden running around, I don't think that will be too acceptable. I think when I finish this I'd love to own a horse, I think I've fallen in love with them, they've converted me.
Check out Joey in action!