facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

Centre Stage: Kit Harington

First Published 27 March 2009, Last Updated 4 March 2015

After two successful runs at the National Theatre, World War I drama War Horse is transferring to the West End. Adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel, the play tells the story of young country boy Albert and his beloved horse Joey. When Albert’s father sells Joey to the army, Albert, heartbroken and with nothing to lose, embarks on a dangerous journey to find his beloved horse and bring him home.

Fresh out of drama school when he won the part at the National six months ago, 22 year old Londoner Kit Harington makes his West End debut in the role of Albert at the New London theatre. But as he tells Charlotte Marshall, he’s more worried about the thought of putting on weight and breaking one of the life-size horse puppets than the idea of treading the boards of the New London theatre.

So, what’s Albert like?
KH: Albert is a passionate young guy. At the start of the play he’s very susceptible and shy but he finds confidence in nurturing this horse [Joey] and so grows into a man with Joey, but is still quite passionate and heated at times, when things like Joey being sold comes up and he’s heart broken and gets very angry with his father. His life and soul is his horse essentially.

Why is his horse Joey so important to him?
KH: In that day and age a horse firstly would be a huge status symbol within a small village and Albert’s a working class lad so that’s initially why there’s excitement surrounding the horse. But it becomes more than that because they grow up together and he finds that he’s a wonderful horseman. He works brilliantly with Joey and essentially, like many people do with horses, falls into this obsession with this animal.

Is it tough playing the same character every night?
KH: Yes, it is tough. It can get quite tiring because for Joey the horse and for me it’s a very physical play, so it can get knackering. And I won’t have done six months of eight shows a week straight before, so that’ll be a new test.

Luke Treadaway played Albert in the play’s first run at the National. Was it nerve wracking taking over the role?

KH: It was kind of, but it’s such a brilliant first job for me that it didn’t matter so much. I got into rehearsals and they were all so supportive and started from scratch anyway, they wanted to re-do everything. I wasn’t just stepping into someone else’s shoes; well it didn’t feel like it.

What has your experience working at the National been like?
KH: It has been amazing. I graduated from drama school and went straight into the National so I was incredibly lucky for a young actor and it lived up to every expectation I had of it. It’s my first professional production and they were incredibly nurturing and supportive and it is a tough and nerve wracking first role to be landed with, but they were so supportive and encouraging.

Do you feel nervous about the show transferring to the West End?
KH:
It’s not nerve wracking as such. It’s nerve wracking the whole idea of the six months of shows, that’s the kind of scary bit. But there’s going to be new members of the cast, new puppeteers, it’s going to be a new space and I feel it needs that now. Its had six months at the National and doing another six months at the National I would feel would be even harder than what we’re going to do now, because it will change so it’ll feel slightly like a different show.

How is it working with the puppets in the show? Do you have to treat them like actors?
KH: There’s three [puppeteers] to a horse and they work as a team, they breath together, they try to be one organism on stage. But obviously they’re separate people in real life and I have a great working relationship with everyone in the cast I think. But working with this wooden horse is probably something I’ll never get to do again, because it’s just so bizarre!

At one point in the show you have to ride Joey, is that difficult to do?
KH: It’s more difficult for them holding me up. Two people have to carry me and bear my weight, so I have to watch what I eat sometimes, I don’t want to put on too much weight! But there was a bit where I had to learn to jump onto it from standing and it’s a 16 hand high horse, so that was pretty tough to learn, but I got it and that was the only scary bit I’d say.

Have the puppets ever broken or malfunctioned?

KH: Funnily enough they have and they do. It goes through stages, but a couple of times you’ll go on stage and one of the puppeteers will be saying “Back leg left, not working not working” or something and we’ve got this incredible puppeteer called Yvonne who will just run on like a Formula One fixing team. You just hear this drilling and she’ll have fixed it by the time we’re supposed to go back on. But once we had to stop the show because Joey’s leg broke so the stage manager came out and said “Sorry, but Joey’s hurt his leg”. The audience was surprisingly okay with it actually.

Was Michael Morpurgo, author of the novel War Horse, involved in the creative process?

KH: He was yes and he continues to be. He came in for one rehearsal and sat with us and helped us to decipher what we thought the horses’ personalities were like. He has seen the show countless times, he comes to see it in support of us and we’re all on first name terms with him backstage. I think he’s very proud of what was achieved and he still sees it very much as his, which is good.

Did you do any research into World War I when preparing to play Albert?
KH: Yes lots, it was very depressing! I read certain books like All Quiet On The Western Front. I’d been to the World War I graves and I knew quite a lot about the First World War and the atrocities before I did the play so I was quite clued up. But in rehearsals we went through it all again and it’s not a pretty thing to research. We’re doing this play and we’re having a great time doing it, but you kind of sit back sometimes in certain bits of the play and go “I’m glad I’m not living in 1914”.

Do you think the audience learns anything about the period from watching the play?
KH: Yes, I think it’s incredibly good for younger audience members as well because the likelihood is your older audience member will know about the war already, but as a first education on the First World War for, I don’t know, 13, 14-year olds or so I think it’s brilliant, because the second half is not light-hearted, it’s quite dark and it doesn’t hold many stops back, but the kids seem to really enjoy it and are moved by the tale.

So hopefully the show will attract young people to the theatre…
KH:
Yes, I think it’s great because it’s a family show essentially and it was made initially to be a children’s show and what they found was that it didn’t just work on a younger person’s level, it worked on a family level – everybody enjoyed it. So it’s a show you can bring your children to and also have a great time yourself.  

What would you like to do next in your career?
KH:
Well I’ve kind of said to myself – and this isn’t set in stone – a year of doing Albert is probably enough for me. And when it’s up I’d love to work more in theatre around London. You know obviously a big TV or film break would be lovely, but I find that I’m essentially a theatre trained actor and that’s what I love doing. I love fringe theatres in London, I love theatres like the Royal Court, Soho and the National obviously and if I could work in any of those and be a jobbing actor for a while then I’m very lucky.

CM

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.