What’s it all about?
One of the National Theatre’s greatest ever successes, War Horse opened at its original South Bank home in 2007 before transferring to the West End the following year, where it continues to win audiences over with a captivating combination of an incredible story and mind-blowing staging.
Based on Michael Morpurgo’s much-loved novel, War Horse takes theatregoers from the calm countryside of Devon to the terrifying front line in war-torn France when Joey, Albert’s beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry. Determined to be reunited, Albert embarks on a treacherous mission to bring him home.
So, that’s the story bit. As fascinating and emotive as it is, the staging is where the theatrical magic happens, as a stupendously talented company of puppeteers bring the equine characters to life with Handspring Puppet Company’s staggering life-sized creations.
Olivier Award winner Luke Treadaway originated the role of Albert before Kit Harington of Game Of Thrones and Testament Of Youth fame took over in 2009. With no idea of his poster-gracing future, he told Official London Theatre in an interview at the time: “Obviously a big TV or film break would be lovely, but I find that I’m essentially a theatre trained actor… 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.” We’d say the days of being described as a “jobbing actor” are well behind him.
All puppeteers in the show spend time at stables for vital research during rehearsals. This means they can study the exact ways a horse moves, making their performances all the more believable.
Olivier Awards history
War Horse was nominated for an impressive six Olivier Awards in 2008 following its premiere. It triumphed in two categories with Toby Sedgwick walking away with Best Theatre Choreographer and Rae Smith and Handspring Puppet Company taking home Best Set Design.
“It’s an enormous privilege to be alongside all of these incredible shows, some of which we’ve watched growing up. To be featured in a show that’s alongside them is incredible, it’s a dream come true.
“It’s really nice to know that the people still have the show in their hearts. Years go by and we still have packed houses and people still flock to see the show. I think it really taps into something to do with human nature and it’s got so many different facets; it discusses the way we deal with war and the way we deal with humanity, the way we interact with animals.” War Horse puppeteers Nick Hart, Andrew London and Antony Antunes
This is a show that truly has to be seen to be believed; you just can’t grasp the extent to which you will be drawn into the lives of these animals by puppets that become so real you can almost feel their breath until you’ve taken your seat and the lights have come down. It’s an undisputed theatrical marvel.