A FORMER Lavington School pupil Shaun McCourt has made his West End debut as part of the cast of the National Theatre’s acclaimed stage production of War Horse.

Mr McCourt joined as part of the new cast for this year at the New London Theatre which has 26 actors and 12 puppeteers.

The 28-year-old started at the end of March on a 12 month contract and plays the hind of equine star Joey.

He said: “I was extremely excited when I found out and it has been a really interesting challenge to be part of War Horse.”

The play is set at the outbreak of World War One and Joey, young Albert’s beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France.

He’s soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man’s land.

But Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to find him and bring him home.

The new cast had to start rehearsals two months before starting and as part of the puppetry team Mr McCourt begun with a two week workshop before meeting the rest of the cast.

He said: “The horse puppets weigh eight and half stone each and, as part of the workshop, we learnt to work together as each horse has a team of three with a head, heart and hind.”

Mr McCourt grew up in Market Lavington, attending St Barnabas School and then Lavington School.

Before making his West End debut he had recently finished a UK tour of Joseph as one of the brothers and as the Joseph understudy.

The actor still comes back to the area regularly to visit his Mum and teaches drama in the area several times a year.

He said: “My first ever show was at Lavington School in a production of Bugsy Malone. I then went to St Augustine’s in Trowbridge where I did musical theatre and was involved in other productions.”

After War Horse Mr McCourt said his dream role would be in the cast of Les Miserable.

“It is a show I have always loved and I think it would be fantastic opportunity to be involved in the show.

War Horse first premiered in October 2007 and is produced in the West End by the National Theatre and National Angels.

It is directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, with puppet direction, design and fabrication by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler for Handspring Puppet Company.

After recently concluding a record-breaking UK tour earlier this year in Bristol, the show has now extended booking until April 2016. For more information and tickets go to www.warhorseonstage.com/