War Horse puppeteers take up tale of Hartlepool’s monkey

One of the puppets created by Gyre and Gimble, which is part of the team behind The Hartlepool Monkey.
One of the puppets created by Gyre and Gimble, which is part of the team behind The Hartlepool Monkey.

The story of the Hartlepool monkey is to be brought to life in a new show which draws on the expertise of War Horse puppeteers.

Gyre and Gimble was founded in 2014 by two of the team who met while performing on the original production of the show.

Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre.

Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre.

It turned the Michael Morpurgo book into a West End and Broadway hit before Stephen Spielberg took it to the big screen.

Now the company is preparing to take its latest production - The Hartlepool Monkey - on tour to stages across the country.

The show will visit 12 different venues, including Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre and a Newcastle theatre.

Writer Carl Grose was inspired by the myth which claimed that in 1815, during the Napoleonic Wars, a French warship was wrecked off the coast of the town.

The legend of The Hartlepool Monkey has survived the test of time, capturing the imaginations of people of all ages for over 200 years, and landing here, on the shores of the 21st century, more relevant than ever.

Production team spokesman

Only a brave young cabin girl and the ship’s mascot, a chimpanzee in French naval uniform, survive and made it to shore.

But the townsfolk, having never seen a real Frenchman before, mistake the costumed ape for a French spy, condemning him to a life-or-death trial.

The story then turns to the girl and local children to see if they can save the day.

A spokesman for the show said: “The legend of The Hartlepool Monkey has survived the test of time, capturing the imaginations of people of all ages for over 200 years, and landing here, on the shores of the 21st century, more relevant than ever.

The Hartlepool Monkey has been written to appeal to families.

The Hartlepool Monkey has been written to appeal to families.

“A boisterous crew will use thrilling stagecraft, spirited sea shanties and a mischievous chimpanzee puppet to tell this timely tale that explores xenophobia – its causes and consequences – whilst celebrating mankind’s ability to overcome prejudice.”

The production has been written for children aged 10 and over, as well as adults and families.

It is directed by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié, who lead the puppetry company, and presented by Fuel Theatre in association with Stratford Circus Arts Centre in London.

It will run at Hartlepool Town Hall on Tuesday, November 14, at 7pm and Wednesday, November 15,at 1.30pm, with tickets to go on sale soon via www.destinationhartlepool.com.

Northern Stage in Newcastle is one of the venues on the show's tour.

Northern Stage in Newcastle is one of the venues on the show's tour.

Those shows will follow on from four-day run featuring seven performances at Northern Stage in Newcastle from Tuesday, October 10, to Saturday, October 14.

That run will include one performance to be accompanied by British Sign Language and another with a post-show discussion.

Tickets are already on said for the Newcastle shows via www.northernstage.co.uk.

The Hartlepool Monkey’s tour also takes it to locations in London, Cardiff, Liverpool and Salford.