Take for example, just two productions: When Woyzeck on the Highveld toured it visited 20 cities through Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, America and Canada. And Warhorse; it has been playing in Britain since 2007, it had a five year run in America; in all 11 countries and 7 million people have seen it. It is described as a global phenomenon. When Bonham’s auctioned some of these horse puppets they raised $90,046 (£68000), Joey the principal horse sold for £35,000. Such has been the impact of Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler on the world of theatre and puppetry.
The first time they tried their puppets out abroad was at Charleville-Mézières in France in 1985 with a play Episodes of an Easter Rising. Nobody had seen puppets being used in adult theatre. It was hugely successful and they knew they were onto a successful formula, if not a world first.
Back from France they collaborated with The Junction Avenue Theatre Company, notably Malcolm Purkey and William Kentridge with Tooth and Nail. After which William Kentridge found his footing in theatre and created a number of plays with Adrian and Basil which included Woyzeck on the Highveld. Then followed Tall Horse, a play of extraordinary beauty, a collaboration with a Malian puppet company; and then came War Horse.
Adrian and Basil met at university, at Michaelis Art School – both artists, both creatives. They have like-mindedly travelled through the political landscape of South Africa, hurt by what they have seen, using puppetry to redress that evil. They have spent time in the past seven years in a small Karoo town, Barrydale, working with a community there, creating jobs, creating pride, improving lives, making good as they know best… with puppets, big puppets, life size elephant and rhinoceros puppets.
“…a puppet is a simple art form really – an object that moves and hopefully moves an audience..”