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The Hartlepool Monkey - Stratford Circus Arts Centre and on tour

The Hartlepool Monkey

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

CASTING has been announced for The Hartlepool Monkey, which visits Stratford Circus Arts Centre from September 19 to September 30, 2017 as part of a UK tour.

The line up includes Rebecca Collingwood, Fred Davis, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, James Duke, Baker Mukasa, Rachel Sanders and John Trindle.

Production images

Previously Posted: Fuel in association with Stratford Circus Arts Centre is presenting Gyre & Gimble’s The Hartlepool Monkey which tours the UK from September 19 to November 18, 2017, visiting Stratford Circus Arts Centre from September 19 to September 30.

The Hartlepool Monkey is written by Carl Grose and created by Carl Grose, Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié.

The puppeteers who brought War Horse to life and who co-designed The Lorax for the Old Vic production introduce Napoleon, the anarchic chimpanzee who is put on trial on suspicion of being a French spy.

Based on the 200-year-old legend, The Hartlepool Monkey 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 in military 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.

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.

Following War Horse, they co-directed 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.”

The Hartlepool Monkey is directed by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié of Gyre & Gimble and has set and costume design by Samuel Wyer, lighting design by Matt Daw, puppet design by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié, music by Adam Pleeth, sound design by Alma Kelliher and puppet fabrication by Stitches and Glue LTD. Casting has not yet been announced.

The Hartlepool Monkey is suitable for ages 10+.

Tickets: £10 – £8. To book, call the box office on 0844 357 2625 or visit stratford-circus.com/.

Times: September 19, 26 and 28 at 7pm, September 23 and 30 at 2pm.

Running Time: 1hour 20 minutes (no interval).

The Hartlepool Facts and Figures

1. To this day, Hartlepudlians are affectionately known as ‘monkey hangers’.

2. During the Napoleonic Wars, most of the Hartlepool population had never met or seen a Frenchman.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

Following the Stratford Circus dates, The Hartlepool Monkey will tour to Preston, Northern Stage, Wales Millennium Centre, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Connaught Theatre in Worthing, Nuffield Theatre in Southampton, the Lowry, Exeter Phoenix, Theatre Royal Margate, Unity Theatre in Liverpool, and Hartlepool, where the show is set.