Thursday, 20 March 2014

Doğan Mehmet says “it’s been a privilege” to star in award-winning West End show War Horse, now set for return to music

Doğan Mehmet (R) with Ben Murray appearing in War Horse at the New London Theatre

The curtain came down for the last time on Saturday for Doğan Mehmet in the award-winning play War Horse. The talented Turkish Cypriot actor bowed out after a year of playing Songman, one of the show’s leading roles, to packed audiences at the New London Theatre in Covent Garden. Reflecting on his time in the show, Mehmet said: “It’s been a privilege playing in this spectacular show, but now it’s time to look forward.” 

Doğan appeared in more than 300 performances of the show since being cast as Songman (the play’s musical storyteller) at the start of 2013. For the past 12 months, he would open the show singing, “Only Remembered” an old Scottish hymn from the early 1800s. Doğan would reappear on stage frequently, often at the height of the play’s most emotional scenes. His short solos would express the feelings of the audience and provide commentary to the strong visual scenes both on stage and through projections on a big screen behind. Vocally demanding, Doğan shared the role of Songman with Ben Murray, performing as a musician and backing vocalist on alternate weeks, playing the fiddle and accordion, as well as helping on stage with the puppets.

Based on a children’s book by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse has been described as “a landmark theatre event”. The internationally acclaimed play has been seen by over two million people worldwide, including The Queen, since receiving its World Premiere at the National Theatre on 9 October 2007. The West End show features life-sized puppets of horses and other animals that form part of the play, which has been staged on Broadway (New York), in Melbourne, Toronto and Berlin, and has toured Australia, the USA, Britain and Ireland. In another first, on 27 February 2014, Doğan was among the cast whose performance of War Horse was transmitted live to audiences in cinemas around the world.
A scene from War Horse. Photo by Brinkhoff Mogenburg
The play starts on the eve of World War One. Having bought Joey at an auction, young Albert’s beloved horse is sold to the British cavalry and shipped to France. Joey is soon caught up in enemy fire and fate takes him on an extraordinary odyssey.  But Albert cannot forget Joey; although not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to find his horse and bring him home. This mesmerising and tender tale highlights the special bond between animals and humans, and the universal suffering of war.

Doğan backstage at War Horse
On his time in War Horse, Doğan said, “It’s been a privilege playing in this spectacular show around great actors and a brilliant production team. Anyone who hasn’t seen the show really should – it is a play for all times and all people. You will be blown away.”

The versatile young entertainer was praised by the likes of Liza Minelli and Gary Barlow for his performance as Songman. Alongside acting, Doğan is an accomplished Folk singer and multi-instrumentalist whose credits include two critically acclaimed albums, and starring in BBC1’s The Omid Djalali Show and West End musical Stomp. 

He told T-VINE: “The last few days [in War Horse] were emotional for sure, but I’m also looking forward to the next chapter in my career. Music is my life and it will be great to get back into the studio to record new songs, which will again include a mixture of Turkish and English Folk.”

After an intense year of performing, Doğan will be taking a short break before returning to the studio to record his third album, due for release in 2015. Just 23 years old and originating from Brighton, this rising star is equally well-known for his abilities as a singer-songwriter as he is for his acting and dancing. He first burst onto the scene as a runner-up in the 2008 BBC Young Folk Awards and has since released two critically acclaimed albums, Gypsyhead and Outlandish. 

A second generation Turkish Cypriot, MOJO magazine described Doğan as, “a roaring fanfare for multicultural Britain, merging Anglo-Turk traditions with relish and conviction”, his lyrics and songs reflecting the remixed sounds of Britain, Turkey and Cyprus. His charismatic stage presence has earned him invites to prestigious music festivals such as Glastonbury, Beautiful Days and Larmer Tree. He has sung with Folk legends James Fagan and Martin Carthy, and was part of global all-star Folk band The Imagined Village that performed during the London 2012 Olympics.

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