War Horse puppeteers bring The Hartlepool Monkey to the stage

The Hartlepool Monkey

The original puppeteers who helped bring War Horse to life, and went on to collaborate on Running Wild and The Lorax, are behind a new family-friendly play based on a 200-year-old legend.

Fuel, in association with Stratford Circus Arts, presents Gyre & Gimble’s The Hartlepool Monkey, which opens in Stratford Circus Arts Centre on 19 September then tours the UK, tells the story of a ship wrecked off the Hartlepool coast with just two survivors: the cabin girl and the ship’s mascot, a chimpanzee dressed in a miniature military-style uniform. Terrified of French invasion and unfamiliar with what a Frenchman should look like, the locals put the monkey on trial as a spy with grisly consequence.

At a time when Britain is examining its own tolerance and acceptance of newcomers, The Hartlepool Monkey is a timely production about the irrationality of xenophobia whilst celebrating humanity’s ability to overcome prejudice.

The Hartlepool Facts and Figures:
· To this day, Hartlepudlians are affectionately known as ‘monkey hangers’
· During the Napoleonic Wars, most of the Hartlepool population had never met or seen a Frenchman
· During the spy trial, the Hartlepool Monkey was (unsurprisingly) unable to answer any of the court’s questions and found guilty. The townsfolk then dragged him into the town square and hanged him
· The Hartlepool Monkey legend lives on today. During football matches between local rivals Darlington and Hartlepool United, the chant, “Who hung the monkey” can often be heard
· Hartlepool United’s mascot is a monkey called H’Angus the Monkey, and the local Rugby Union team Hartlepool Rovers are known as the Monkeyhangers

Gyre & Gimble was founded by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié, who met on War Horse and went on to become associate puppetry directors of the show. They place puppetry at the heart of storytelling, creating compelling characters to lead audiences through fantastical stories and expand expectations of what puppetry is capable of. Having met whilst working together on War Horse, they went onto co-direct The Elephantom, which transferred to the West End, and have since created puppetry for Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild, new musical The Grinning Man, and Dr Seuss’s The Lorax which returns to the Old Vic in October.

Toby Olié and Finn Caldwell said, “We’re very excited to be bringing this story to audiences of all ages, all over the UK. Initially attracted to the tale of The Hartlepool Monkey as it placed an animal at the centre of the narrative, we’ve since become excited about the myth from 19th Century being able to connect to the world today, in particular recent issues of insularity, xenophobia and inclusion. Our chimp we’ve created promises to be a striking new style of puppet for us and we’re assembling a multi-talented cast to bring this playful, anarchic and touching tale to life.”

Running Time: 1hr 20 mins (no interval) | Suitable for ages 10+

Rebecca Collingwood
Fred Davis
Jonathan Dryden Taylor
James Duke
Baker Mukasa
Rachel Sanders
John Trindle

19 – 30 Sept Stratford Circus Arts Centre, London
Theatre Square, Stratford, London E15 1BX

7 Oct Preston, UCLAN
2.30pm, 7,30pm

10 – 14 Oct Northern Stage, Newcastle
Barras Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 7RH

17 – 21 Oct Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Bute Pl, Cardiff Bay CF10 5AL

24 – 25 Oct Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales
Aberystwyth University,
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3DE

27 Oct Connaught Theatre, Worthing
Union Place, Worthing BN11 1LG

31 Oct – 1 Nov Nuffield Theatre, Southampton
University Rd, Southampton, Hampshire SO17 1TR

3 – 4 Nov The Lowry, Salford
Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, Manchester, Greater Manchester M50 3AZ

7 – 8 Nov Exeter Phoenix, Exeter as part of Fuel Fest with Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter
Exeter Phoenix, Bradninch Place, Gandy Street, Exeter, EX4 3LS

10 – 11 Nov Theatre Royal Margate
Addington Street, Margate, Kent CT9 1PW

14 – 15 Nov Town Hall Theatre, Hartlepool
Raby Rd, Hartlepool TS24 8AH

17 – 18 Nov Unity Theatre, Liverpool
1 Hope Place, Liverpool L1 9BG