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War Horse creators’ refugee puppet set for epic walk

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Nick Wall

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Little Amal in front of Tower Bridge in London

A giant puppet of a child, made by the War Horse creators, is to embark on a 5,000-mile walk from Syria to the UK to “rewrite the narrative about refugees”.

The 3.5m (11.5ft) puppet, named Little Amal, represents a nine-year-old girl.

Her journey will form a project called The Walk, by team that recreated Calais refugee camp The Jungle on stage.

Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry, one of The Walk producers, said it had been called “perhaps the most ambitious public art project ever attempted”.

Little Amal has been constructed by the Handspring Puppet Company, which previously made the equine stars of the stage version of War Horse.

Handspring co-founder Basil Jones said: “We are doing something unprecedented. It’s part of the reason why we came out of retirement and took on this project – because it’s such an important thing to do, such an exciting challenge.”

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Bevan Roos

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The puppet takes three people to operate

Amal will set off from Turkey’s border with Syria in April and will travel through Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and France – being greeted by street parades and other events en route – before reaching the UK.

Her epic journey will end with a large-scale event at the Manchester International Festival next July.

Organisers say they want to “highlight the millions of displaced children who are more vulnerable than ever during the global pandemic”.

The trek will be masterminded by Good Chance Theatre, which began at the Jungle refugee camp in 2015, before staging an acclaimed show about the camp in the West End and New York.

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Getty Images

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Stephen Daldry is among those involved in the project

Daldry, who co-directed The Jungle, said The Walk would be “a travelling festival of art and hope”.

Fellow producer Tracey Seaward said it would provide “great potential to rewrite the narrative about refugees”.

The puppet, created from a moulded cane body and carbon fibre head, arms and legs, will be operated by three people – one on a pair of stilts inside its body, and two others beside it moving its arms.

Manchester International Festival artistic director John McGrath said the puppet would receive an “extraordinary welcome”.

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