In praise of Jack Holden actor


I started to follow Jack Holden on Twitter in 2012, on a list first, when I noticed he was playing Albert Narracott in War Horse at the New London Theatre after Luke Treadaway and because he showed interest in WWI.

I didn’t see the 2012 production of War Horse, I had to wait the year after, but the cast was different.

Anyway, the staff of the National Theatre Archive wrote me that a version with Jack as Albert is available to view at their location, so I will go there in my next London holiday to watch it.

I think Jack is playing very interesting roles, of course I started to follow his Twitter account after a short time! And WWI seems to be a regular feature in his career.

In 2014 through his tweets, I saw that Jack was starring in the one-man show Johnny Got His Gun from Dalton Trumbo anti-war novel, on WWI again. He got praises for his performance in reviews and from the audience. I’m curious about that book I heard of several times, I’m going to search for it soon and I will try to imagine how he did play Joe. Must have been challenging being alone on stage every night for weeks!


The same year, since Jack is also a writer, he wrote Dawn, which was played as rehearsed reading at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden on Tuesday January 28, 2014. The synopsis is very interesting, I hope we get to see it in a theatre one day:

<<In the trenches of World War One, two English boys are bound together by the terrors which surround them. One dawn, whilst their regiment surges forward to their deaths, they run the other way, together. On their hopeless flight for the Channel, shaken and scared, they find the seed of a mutual love. But how can that love bloom when all they have is the bombed-out wilderness and each other?

In the centenary year of the start of World War One, Fine Frenzy Theatre are proud to present a reading of Royal Court Young Writer Jack Holden’s haunting new play.>>

I had my first chance to see him on stage in the play Oppenheimer by Tom Morton-Smith, which was announced by the Royal Shakespeare Company to be staged in Stratford-Upon-Avon and later in London.

The cast looked very promising and, as I said in my report, I got tickets to see the show in London and I totally fell in love with the story and its cast.

Jack was Robert Wilson, one of the young scientists who worked with R.J.Oppenheimer at the atomic bomb. I agree with the 5 stars review in thinking that <<Holden is absolutely outstanding; a star on the rise.>> I loved how he talked and moved on stage!

He played one of the most moving scenes, when Wilson tried one last time to prevent the use of the bomb, but, then, I suspected he could be good for comedy, too, for some funny moments he was in, like when he took milk and egg as a remedy for booze. His Wilson will always stay in my heart!

Pity I wasn’t able to see him playing the funny role of Hastings in a quite modern version of She Stoops To Conquer at the Royal Bath Theatre in Bath, he must have been hilarious,


but I booked immediately for A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Play For The Nation at the Barbican in London, (a play I wanted to see on stage from long time) as soon as the cast was announced. I think that Jack is perfect as Lysander! The role requests a good-looking nice actor with a very physical presence, which he is. He goes very well together with the other members of the cast. Dream 2016 will be back to Stratford-Upon-Avon, from where the UK tour started, from June to July, I wish I could see this play there again! I wrote my report there.

Jack Holden as Lysander

Currently, Jack plays Roland Pemble in the BBC Four radio play Home Front, which takes place during the WWI years. Roland is a young photographer who falls in love with the woman who owns the photography shop where he works. It’s a tender and bit of a troubled love story. And then he joins the Army. I really hope he’s back ‘in safe’ in the next season.

Home Front is available to listen to on the BBC Four site: where there is information on the play and on WWI.

Roland and Lillian

Jack can play so well the romantic hero!

I suggest you watch online a nice short movie called In A Bookshop by Aideen Johnston, where Jack plays Jake Ryan, an ex uni student who works in a publishing house: The ending is funny, I have the impression maybe something similar happened for real! I find Jake very nice! I can’t say the same about the teacher, haha!

In A Bookshop

Jack has just finished shooting the movie The Levelling with Ellie Kendrick, currently in post-production. He plays James, but we know very little about the movie, yet. IMDb says: <<Hope Dickson Leach has written and is directing the film, which is set in the aftermath of the dramatic flooding in Somerset last year. Kendrick will be a young woman who returns to her family’s dairy farm after the tragic death of her younger brother.>>

So I’m looking forward to it, hoping it will come to Italian cinemas, as Ellie is quite famous here for her role in Game Of Thrones.

From Hope Dickson Leach Twitter account

From Hope Dickson Leach Twitter account


I admire Jack Holden as a bright, talented actor! And he’s a very nice young man in person! I met him twice, once after Oppenheimer and once after Midsummer, he was lovely to me!

And, for the record, I got to live a magical “stage moment” with him in both the plays!

During Oppenheimer, ‘Serber’ and ‘Wilson’ pointed at me and applauded me saying: “…and hey, you’ll kill everyone in the room…well done.” when I was sitting in the front row. I’m still blushing thinking about it, but I had fun! Well, they were just playing their lines, I was there by chance! Haha!

At the end of Midsummer, while dancing, ‘Lysander’ smiled and winked at me from the stage. I saluted him back from the front row, again. And that was not part of the play, just him being cheerful and pleased I was seeing the play again that day. What a lovely thing he did!

And is not just that. Jack is also a good human being. In 2010, with a friend, he raised money for Action Aid, with the project Skye is the limit. They reached the highest point of the Isle of Skye, by hitch-hiking from Bristol, with the help of a crowdfunding. They decided to embark on the trip to support ActionAid’s relief efforts in Pakistan and its child sponsorship programme. If you take a look to the nice videos they filmed, they faced a big challenge, but I bet they had fun!

I wish Jack all the best for his career!

LINKS Jack’s official site Jack’s Twitter profile Aideen Johnston’s Twitter profile Workshop on WWI on Skye is the limit Dawn Rehearsed Reading Facebook event interview to Jack The Levelling official site

News of 10 June: photographer Jack McGuire shared a gorgeous new headshot of Jack on Twitter:

Actor: @1JackHolden Represented by @UnitedAgents #Headshots #Actor

Jack McGuire headshot 10June16

Very nice headshot, top notch actor!

McGuire official site:


BBC Home Front and other audio plays

HomeFront p023f6dl

(copyright BBC Radio4)

I’ve just started to listen to a fascinating WWI radio play, Home Front, these days.

It’s a “Drama serial tracking the fortunes of a group of characters on the home front as they try to maintain normality while Britain is involved in the First World War.

Official page

As you can see from the Characters, the cast is terrific and there is a good amount of interesting roles (eight families and other people) and the story takes places following exactly the real First World War Centenary timeline.

Every character has a page with information about date and place of birth, age at outbreak of WWI, occupation and even address! Plus a description of personality.

And audience can listen to it day by day or later with podcasts (single episodes or Omnibus week by week) and downloading the mp3 files. Well done BBC Radio4! A voice even says “thank you!” if you download the files, hehe! They appreciate if you do so!

Each episode is 11 minutes long and it’s aired from Monday to Friday at 12.04 am.

For each episode there’s the cast & creatives list in the page and they repeat it on the podcast. There are some beautiful illustrations along the days, too, I don’t know who is the author.

Plus links to articles on WWI real people and events.

I’m downloading all the Omnibus podcasts so that I can listen to the story from the beginning: it started the 4th of August 2014, but I didn’t know. So, as soon as the “RSC Oppenheimer” actor Jack Holden announced he joined the cast last Summer, I was taking a look to his character Roland Pemble.

As Jack tweeted yesterday: <<It’s my and Alex Tregear’s juicy episode of on at 1204 today! Photography’s never been so steamy…>> and he producer Allegra McIlroy tweeted: <<“Let’s go into the darkroom and see what develops” – sweetness + photography today >>, I liked a lot the episode and the previous others with them.

Lilian and Roland are two very charming characters, I like their personalities as described in their profiles: a bright and independent young woman who works in Photography (a kind of art I love and that was still in development and so open to creativity in those decades) at the beginning of the XX Century, when independence was not easy for women, side by side with a young assistant who loves his work and admires and loves…someone! You can well imagine what it’s going on between them through their voices, but in last’s episode…oh well, find out yourself!

Here the 9 October episode: <<HomeFront, 9 October 1915 “Lilian Frost sees Roland in a new light as they share a day of photographic discoveries” >>

And I will keep an eye on actress Alex Tregear, as well: she got a beautiful voice, like Jack!


Home Front

I also found moving what happens to another woman, but I don’t want to spoil you the story, so it’s better if we all start it from the beginning.

Even if so tragic and dreadful, I still find The Great War era interesting and here it’s seen under the point of view of those who lived it in first person.

Radio/Audio plays are great to listen to. My favorite between those I was lucky to find so far are:


I hope all the BBC radio allow more works like these for audience outside the UK!

It’s not only a good exercise to improve my English, it’s amazing how the cast & creatives are able to make your imagination run using only voices and sounds effects. Even purer performances than on Theatre! I don’t know if you get what I mean…

This play, Home Front, will be added to my Favorites pages soon…


War Horse on Stage public led interview with Michael Morpurgo

Last May, “War Horse on Stage” ran a public led interview with the author of the book Michael Morpurgo, with questions by their social media fans read on to discover his writing inspirations and thoughts on the play:

I find it very interesting and his answers made me want to write down some reflections here on my blog…


I regret I never learned to ride, but I always loved horses and tales about them and I think they are noble animals. Morpurgo is right affirming that the relationship between humans and horses can be very deep and worth to be analyzed.

And I enjoy to read interviews by those who work in the showbusiness, because you see their point of view on art and life, plus some aspects of their personality hidden between the lines.

From this interview, Michael Morpurgo seems a nice, clever person.

Nice to read who was the writer’s favorite author when he was growing up and to know that he would have liked to write himself his favorite book, “Treasure Island“. But he’s modest enough to admit he “wouldn’t have written it as well”.

He was also much involved with the stories he wrote, he rode for a bit and knew tales from the First World War from the men of his village, so he could write some of his masterpieces knowing firsthand what really happened.

He was bold enough to give “War Horse” an happy ending, like if the strong friendship between a boy and a horse made a miracle possible. I love this story and I believe it must be great for an actor to play a role in a production! Nice to know that Morpurgo had the occasion to perform on stage as a farmer.


It was a great thing that Steven Spielberg made a movie from “War Horse” and, as far as I know, Morpurgo didn’t seem disappointed by the final result. It also got a good cast that gave justice to the characters.

Anyway, having seen both the movie and the play, and despite is hard not to like the movie, I still prefer the play, for some reasons.

Theatre is always something that catches you with fantasy ad creativity. Several artists join together to set up a show, both cast and creatives.

Then, there are the live performances by actors who use their skills to give life to their characters. With very few exceptions, to see live performances is always the best experience for theatergoers, who will keep remember them. I’ll always regret I didn’t see Luke Treadaway originating the role of Albert in the first 2007 production, but from another role he helped to created, I’m quite sure he gave a terrific performance there.

Not that the movie didn’t require efforts in finding the right actors, horses, extras, costumes, historical material, but of course a story on war requests reality on screen, unless you’re shooting a sci-fi film freely inspired by it. It’s easier, in some way.


It’s different in a theatre. Forget that they could hardly use real horses on stage for hours. It was a question of bringing pages to reality in a more original way. And with new writings we are seeing amazing shows nowadays!

Before to book my ticket, when I heard about the production for the first time, I was wondering how they were going to work out the problem. Sometimes little animals are brought on stage, but just for few minutes. When I saw the first pictures of the puppets on the web I was astonished! I could never imagine that they would use a horse-shaped frame with actors inside!

The movements of the horses are so natural, because all the parts of the body are moved by puppeteers, there must be a great physical training behind it. I particularly love the detail of the eyes, they look wet and sweet like real. You forget that there are performers inside the horses and moving the goose and the other animals.

They also remind me of the ancient Theatre Of Shadows in some way, an even more concise depiction of situations. As Morpurgo says, Joey on stage “is not a pale imitation but rather a wonderful interpretation of the spirit of horse.


I love Joey and Thopthorn, the two horses with a name in the story. It’s a fact their structure is the most complete and actors get on them for real. The other horses are made of a smaller frame and officers who ride them are puppets, as well. They are silent witness of the madness of humanity, but Joey in particular becomes friend with the people he meets. Those people will never be aware of each other, most of them unfortunately die, but they help Joey to survive until the end of the war.

The dark set design with its simplicity put you in the right mood, it creates a dramatic atmosphere like being in war, where everything is dark, empty, misty and desperate. If it was more detailed, like in a movie, you would miss the action at the centre of the stage. You can’t get the same atmosphere inside a cinema even if you see a film in the dark, as well. And the wonderful music and songs fill the air.


My very favorite scene is when Joey the foal exits and adult Joey enters galloping in front of the audience called by Albert: it wouldn’t have been so glorious on screen as it is on stage!

My other favorite parts are when Cap. Nicholls dies and he’s brought to the ground by shadows (what a gripping scene, it gives you shivers!), the scenes with the German officer Friedrich Müller and when the German and the British soldiers save Joey from the barbed wire fence. I like that Morpurgo sees all the good characters like equal, like Joey sees them.

And I’m fond of the goose, that looks like one of those ducks with wheels I used to play with when I was a child. It’s exhilarating: each time it tries to enter home, it loses feathers and gives the audience a good laugh and some relief from the saddest scenes!


Even the poster of the play is better to me: it could be less epic than the movie poster, but it’s more effective, as we see the tragedy of war and the whole story through Joey’s eyes.


“War Horse on Stage” went so far! Now there are productions around the world: U.S., Canada, Germany, Japan, Africa so is more than a typical British tale. It’s universal.

So if I could ask Morpurgo a question or two myself, they would be: “Aren’t you proud that your novel went so far and became universal and that today is performed on stage in other languages? And is not about time to bring it to Italy, too?”

I’m so curious on what his answers would be!