Culture, London, Theatre, Theatre, West-End

Michael Morpurgo on War Horse at the New London Theatre

Yesterday I wrote about The Play That Goes Wrong being the perfect show to take reluctant theatre-goers to due to the guaranteed belly laughs. As a more serious option, the other go-to choice I recommend whenever people ask me what THE RUDDY HELL to see, is always War Horse.

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I’m yet to meet anyone that’s seen War Horse who doesn’t speak about the show without going a bit gooey and misty-eyed. It’s just beautiful. The story of young Albert who follows his beloved horse Joey into the battlefields of World War One, altogether gritty, moving, heart-breaking and uplifting, and peppered with gorgeous live folk music. I saw it again recently as two of my best pals have recently joined the cast (AND OBVIOUSLY I WEPT WHEN I SAW THEM) and was again, blown away by the dedication, energy and spirit of the entire ensemble.

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They’re upstaged only by the puppets. Now, I’ve never been loopy about horses (though I dabbled in horse riding when I was younger and quickly realised my thighs would never look good in jodhpurs) but these equestrian beauties make me melt. Honest to god, within 30 seconds of the horses being onstage, each one being manipulated by three puppeteers, you believe they are real horses. Made by the Handspring Puppet Company, they are simply magnificent. The moment when the foal Joey suddenly bursts onto the stage as a fully grown horse provokes gasps of delight every time.

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Michael Morpurgo who wrote the original novel recently interacted with fans of the show on social media, where he answered some of their burning questions about his story and influences, and the production, which has run since it’s first outing at the National Theatre in 20o7. Here’s what the MAIN MAN had to say!





Q. What is your favourite scene in the book and why? How do you find that this scene is played in the theatre?
– Asked by Niek de Bruijn

A. The meeting between the German soldier and the British soldier in no man’s land when they toss a coin for Joey. It is played wonderfully well in the theatre, it’s a moment of great hope after all the tragedy we have witnessed.

Q. How did you feel/react when you saw Joey on stage for the first time?
–Asked by Betty

 A. Amazed as was everyone else that a creature so obviously made had somehow been filled with life. Like everyone else I found Joey has a different sort of a life from a real horse. He is not a pale imitation but rather a wonderful interpretation of the spirit of horse.

Q. If you had the chance to perform in the War Horse play, would you take it? And which role would you want to play?
– Asked by Rhiannon Granger

A. I have performed in the play on numerous occasions, in the West End, on Broadway, Australia, Salford and in Canada. I even have a costume to prove it. I was a farmer in the auction scene and was allowed to say two words; ‘ two guineas’ – thankfully I didn’t forget them!

I had no idea the big cheese had actually performed in the show himself! To read the full interview, follow this ‘ere link!

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I love War Horse SO GOSH DARN MUCH I’m actually going to see it AGAIN in a couple of weeks. I’ll try not to weep this time. I will probably FAIL MISERABLY THOUGH.

Take your Kleenex and wear waterproof mascara. I’ll be the one sobbing in the stalls.

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This post was written in collaboration with War Horse and AKA, though I wouldn’t have written about it if I wasn’t such a SUCKER for this beautiful production! All photography 2014 New London Cast by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg


  1. Richard Beenham

    June 15, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    What a lovely piece.

    I took my then 9 year old niece to see it about 5 years ago. I knew one of the puppeteers, who very kindly gave us a backstage tour before the show and even let us have a go on a couple of the puppets. We sat in the stalls as they ran through the horse fight scene, which they have to do before every performance as a warm-up as it’s the trickiest part of the whole show for the puppeteers and requires such concentration and precision. She was mesmerised by the whole experience, and I was a very chuffed uncle seeing her so fascinated and awe-struck by it all. It’s quite a precious memory for me – a lovely uncle/niece adventure that we had.

    The moment when foal Joey bursts on to the stage as an adult and the music swells is a real chin-wobbler! So many highlights, my niece absolutely adored it. The bit where the puppeteers step away from a lifeless Topthorn was particularly moving. Hell, it all was! I need to go and see it again.

    1. bloodyhellbrennan

      June 15, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      Agree with all- oh that Topthorn moment gets me every single time!!

      1. Richard Beenham

        June 16, 2015 at 10:08 am

        Ooooh, actually… D’you know… I spent the weekend in Norfolk with my brother’s family, including my two youngest nieces (8 and 5), and we visited a horse sanctuary on Sunday. They were highly amused by the foal doing a wee and the Shetland pony with a massive willy (seriously, it was huge), and were talking about coming to London to see some sights and stuff. So I think, having read your blog and realised the obvious idea was staring me in the face on Sunday (I think the awkward questions about the massive willy distracted me)… I may take them to see War Horse!

        Thanks for helping put those pieces together, Katie. You’re a good ‘un!

        1. bloodyhellbrennan

          June 18, 2015 at 8:44 am

          Haha! No worries! I hope they enjoy!! x

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