Based on Michael Morpurgo’s beloved novel, War Horse – the unforgettable theatrical event from the National Theatre of Great Britain returns to Australia this week with performances at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre from 10 January, before playing the Sydney Lyric Theatre from 15 February and Crown Theatre, Perth from 24 March 2020.
The winner of more than 25 international awards, including the Tony Award for Best Play on Broadway, War Horse is directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris. Nick Stafford’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s remarkable story of courage, loyalty and friendship tells the story of a young boy called Albert and his horse Joey, set against the backdrop of the First World War.
This powerfully moving and imaginative drama is a show of phenomenal inventiveness, filled with stirring music and songs, featuring ground-breaking puppetry work by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, which brings breathing, galloping horses to life on stage.
War Horse, which has now been seen by over eight million people worldwide, received its world premiere on 9 October 2007 at the National Theatre where it played for two seasons before opening at the New London Theatre in March 2009. Since then, War Horse has been seen in 97 cities in 11 countries, including productions on Broadway, in Toronto and Berlin, with touring productions in the UK and Ireland, North America, the Netherlands, Belgium and China.
At the outbreak of World War One, 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 journey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man’s land. Albert, who remained on his parents’ Devon farm, cannot forget Joey. Though still not old enough to enlist he embarks on a treacherous mission to find him and bring him home.
“War Horse is not my story,” says Michael Morpurgo. “It is a story of the horses and men who went from all over the world to the First World War. It happens to be set in Devon in England, because that is where I live, where some 40 years ago I met an old man in the pub in my village who had been a young cavalry soldier in that terrible war.”
“Stories know no barriers. Distance does not matter. History does matter. This is a story of us, of all of us. This is why I am so so pleased that the National Theatre’s uniquely wonderful play of War Horse is soon to be seen again in Australia. Joey belongs with you, as much as he does to us. He’s that horse, that one horse, that came home.”
War Horse is directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, and features a 34 strong cast. It is designed by Rae Smith, with puppet direction, design and fabrication by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler for Handspring Puppet Company, lighting by Paule Constable, and movement and horse choreography by Toby Sedgwick, with video design by Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer for 59 Productions, songmaker John Tams, music by Adrian Sutton and sound by Christopher Shutt.
Katie Henry is the UK & International Tour Director and Craig Leo is the Associate Puppetry Director. Charlotte Peters is the Associate Director and Matthew Forbes is the Associate Puppetry Director. They are joined by Resident Director, Charlie Kenber and Resident Puppetry Director, Gareth Aled.
Michael Morpurgo has written over one hundred books and has won many awards. In 1976 Michael and his wife, Clare, started the charity Farms for City Children, which aims to expand the horizons of children from inner city and urban areas. In 1999 they were awarded an MBE for their work in creating these farms and in 2006 Michael received an OBE.
Micheal’s novel War Horse has been adapted into a hugley successful and critically acclaimed production, and also a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg. Michael is a tireless champion for children’s books and was formerly the Children’s Laureate. He was recently created Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
War Horse plays Melbourne’s Regent Theatre from 10 January, before playing the Sydney Lyric Theatre from 15 February; and the Crown Theatre, Perth from 24 March 2020. For more information, visit: www.warhorseonstage.com.au for details.
Image: War Horse (original London cast) – photo by Brinkhoff / Mögenburg