The National Theatre’s award-winning production of War Horse last night (25 October 2012) celebrated its fifth anniversary in London with a special performance at the New London Theatre, Drury Lane. Former cast members and the show’s creative team gathered with VIPs and friends to celebrate five years on the London stage.
Since its early experimental days at the National Theatre Studio, War Horse has become a national and international phenomenon. It opened at the National’s Olivier Theatre in October 2007 and transferred to the New London in March 2009. More than 1.6 million people have seen the show in London with over 2.4 million people seeing the production worldwide. A ten month, nine-venue tour of the UK and Ireland will begin in Autumn 2013; productions of the show are currently running in New York, Toronto and on a North American tour, with future productions planned for Australia and Berlin.
Nicholas Hytner, Director of the National Theatre said: “War Horse caught the imagination of audiences from its very first outing at the National, but none of us could have foreseen that this astonishing production would still be engendering the same heartfelt response five years later. It’s a show which could only have been developed in the subsidised theatre, where the ability to risk-take and experiment is beyond price. I salute the hundreds of theatre-makers, puppeteers and artists who have been part of War Horse’s remarkable journey.”
Michael Morpurgo, author of the original novel said: “From a Devon meadow a hundred and more years ago, to the battlefields of the First World War, to London, to New York, and soon to Australia and Berlin, our Joey keeps on running. It’s five years since the National Theatre took this little known story, and transformed it, told it their way, wonderfully. Since that night in the Olivier when Joey first trotted out into the spotlight, millions of grown-up children and children around the world have come to know and love Joey’s story, through play, film, concert and book. So thank you National Theatre, thank you Joey, and thank you especially to those actors and puppeteers who go on every night and make War Horse the unique theatrical event it has become.”
Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris, co-directors of War Horse added: “We can’t believe that War Horse is celebrating its fifth anniversary. We are so proud of our show. It was a huge team that made it happen – much bigger than any of the teams either of us have worked with before or since. What we ended up with was something far greater than any one of us could have ever imagined.”
War Horse is the powerful story of a young boy called Albert and his beloved horse, Joey, who has been requisitioned to fight for the English in World War I. Caught in enemy crossfire, Joey ends up serving on both sides during the war before landing in no man’s land, while Albert, not old enough to enlist, embarks on a treacherous mission to find his horse and bring him home. A remarkable tale of courage, loyalty and friendship, War Horse features ground-breaking puppetry work by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company which brings breathing and galloping horses to life on stage.
War Horse is based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo, adapted by Nick Stafford and presented in association with Handspring Puppet Company. Directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, it is designed by Rae Smith, lighting is by Paule Constable and movement and horse choreography by Toby Sedgwick. The puppetry directors are Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, with video design by 59 Productions Ltd, song-making by John Tams, music by Adrian Sutton and sound by Christopher Shutt.
War Horse Facts and Figures
- War Horse received its World Premiere at the National Theatre on 9 October 2007 (press night: 17 October) and played in the Olivier for 92 performances until 14 February 2008 and was seen by over 104,000 people.
- War Horse returned to the National Theatre for a second run playing from 10 September 2008 – 18 March 2009 for a total of 114 performances and was seen by a further 130,000 people.
- War Horse transferred to the West End in 2009 with its first performance at the New London Theatre on 28 March 2009.
- War Horse is currently booking until 26 October 2013 at the New London Theatre.As of October 2012, more than 1.6 million people will have seen War Horse in London, with over 2.4 million seeing the production worldwide.
- War Horse has been seen by The Queen, Prince Phillip, Princess Anne, Prince William and Prince Harry as well as many other famous faces from stage, screen and entertainment.
- The New York production of War Horse opened on 14 April 2011 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center and will run until 6 January 2013.
- Having seen the show at the New London Theatre, Steven Spielberg turned Michael Morpurgo’s novel into a film starring Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Emily Watson, which premiered in January 2012.
- The Toronto production opened in February 2012 at the Princess of Wales Theatre and will run until 6 January 2013.
- A North American tour began in Los Angeles in June 2012 and will visit 27 cities in its first year.
- An Australian production will open at the Melbourne Arts Centre State Theatre on 31 December 2012 and will go on to play seasons in Sydney and Brisbane.
- In autumn 2013 a German language production will open at the historic Theater des Westens in Berlin.
- A UK Tour will begin in Autumn 2013, visiting Plymouth, Birmingham, Salford, Edinburgh, Southampton, Sunderland, Bradford and Cardiff, and also Dublin.
- The puppets in War Horse were created by Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, based in Cape Town. They are made of cane and stretched georgette and are operated by puppeteers.
- War Horse has 18 puppets, including horses Joey and Topthorn, as well as a goose, two swallows and two crows.
- Over 850 people have been employed worldwide on War Horse
- Among its many international awards, War Horse won six Tony Awards, including ‘Best Play’ and a ‘Special Tony Award’ for Handspring Puppet Company.
Release issued by: Premier PR