Birmingham-born 23-year-old John Leader has just graduated from East 15 Acting School after a three year Physical Theatre course which set him up perfectly for his latest role - a puppeteer in the first ever UK touring production of the National Theatre's War Horse.
You've just graduated and now you're here in this mammoth touring production, War Horse, what have the last few months been like for you?
Well they've definitely been an amazing experience! I think it's definitely been a huge learning curve for me, just graduating and then moving into this has been absolutely amazing and I couldn't have asked for anything more. I think War Horse is an amazing show to be in and even if I wasn't in it I'd still be telling all of my friends to go and see it, It's an amazing feeling to be in a show that you're so proud of.
John rehearsing for War Horse (Photo by Ellie Kurttz)
How do you audition for something like War Horse? What's involved in that process?
In the auditions we do some basic puppetry - we do a lot of object manipulation and ensemble listening and moving and then we get into the horse and get to experience being horses! There's about four rounds.
Did you have any previous puppetry experience?
I trained at East 15 on their Physical Theatre course and one of the modules there is puppetry so I got to experience some puppetry but definitely not on the scale of the horses here. I got really good taste of it which I think really set me up well for this job.
Can you explain your role in bringing horse Joey to life?
I play the heart on both horses - Joey and Topthorn. My job is to control the front two legs and the breathing. Each person has a different role so 'the head' has the head and controls the emotional indicators which are the ears. I'm 'the heart' so my emotional indicator is the horse's breath and then 'the hind' operates the back two legs with that emotional indicator being the tail.
Listen to an extended version of this interview in the podcast below:
War Horse (UK Tour) Review