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Sunday, 11 August 2013

James Findlay on War Horse's Common Man - or Woman

Sitting on the grass in the sunshine at Warwick folk fest the other week, one eye on what the sky was doing - the previous night there had been a torrential downpour - I had an interesting chat with James Findlay.

I had thought I wanted to ask him about the Jon Boden opera he's involved in, which is called Little Musgrave, is based on the Matty Groves story and which I believe has its premiere today. However, the conversation soon turned to War Horse, which Findlay has also had a brush with.

"I was invited to take part in some workshops at the South Bank Centre, which were for the casting," he said. "It was a really interesting, fun week. John Tams had invited me but there were some other pretty well-known folk musicians there are well, including Nancy Kerr, doing workshops and groups.

"At the end of the week John offered me the role of the Common Man in the show." The role has also been taken by Tim van Eyken, Saul Rose and - currently - Dogan Mehmet and Ben Murray. "But, from my point of view, the trouble was that it would have involved committing to it for two whole years. And I thought that I'm not really well-known enough on the folk scene to go away for two whole years without everyone forgetting who I was. So I had to say no.

"But interestingly there were a couple of women in the workshops - younger female folk musicians - who were also in the running for the role. So they'd definitely have a woman in that part and I can't see anything wrong in that. Women suffered through the first world war, just as the men did. They may not have been doing much of the killing or dying but there's more than one kind of suffering. They lost husbands, brothers and fathers."

To say nothing of the generation of women who lost their chance of a family as a  result of there being too few men to go around.

"The part is called the Common Man," said Findlay. "But it could just as easily be The Common Woman."

* If you're interested in War Horse you might also like this post, which is about the making of the film with Stephen Spielberg and Richard Curtis.

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