War Horse musicians fail to get their jobs back

May 2014

Live events sector


Five musicians who were in the live orchestra for the London theatre shows of ‘War Horse’ have failed in a bid to get their jobs back after being made redundant and replaced by pre-recorded music. The musicians, backed by the Musicians Union, argued that their cutting from the production breached contracts they had with the show’s producer the National Theatre, and in an initial action the musicians attempted to get an injunction to force the NT to reinstate them pending a full hearing on the breach of contract dispute. However the judge in the case, Mr Justice Cranston, said that he wasn’t persuaded to issue the interim order, even though he thought the claimants’ wider case would be “strong” if and when it reached court. Neyire Ashworth, Andrew Callard, Jonathan Eddie, David Holt and Colin Rae – who had been with the hit show since 2009 – had their roles cut back in March 2013 to just a few minutes per performance before being made redundant. The National Theatre said the decision to cut live music from the show was made for artistic and financial reasons.

According to the BBC,  the musicians’ legal counsel James Laddie QC said, “The claimants have not accepted this breach of their contracts, and have elected to affirm their contracts. They have at all times made it clear that they remain willing and able to attend work and to perform their obligations under their contracts”. Representing the NT, David Reade, denied any breach of contract had occurred, adding: “The orchestra was not an integral part of the play, and indeed there is no live band in any other production [of ‘War Horse’] around the world”.


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