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War Horse  

Last Updated: Oct 23, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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The National Theatre of Great Britain Presents








From director, Steven Spielberg, comes “War Horse,” an epic adventure for audiences of all ages. Set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War, “War Horse” begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets—British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter—before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man’s Land.

The First World War is experienced through the journey of this horse—an odyssey of joy and sorrow, passionate friendship and high adventure. “War Horse” is one of the great stories of friendship and war— a successful book, it was turned into a hugely successful international theatrical hit that is arriving on Broadway next year. It now comes to screen in an epic adaptation by one of the great directors in film history.


National Theatre Production

National Theatre Live  - War Horse was broadcast live from London's West End to cinemas around the world on February 27, 2014.

Since its first performance at the National Theatre in 2007, War Horse has become an international smash hit.

Based on Michael Morpurgo's novel and adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford, War Horse takes audiences on an extraordinary journey from the fields of rural Devon to the trenches of First World War France. Filled with stirring music and songs, this powerfully moving and imaginative drama is a show of phenomenal inventiveness. At its heart are astonishing life sized puppets by South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company, who bring breathing, galloping, charging horses to thrilling life on stage. 


Synopsis of the Play


  Synopsis of the Play

In an English village, a farmer buys a colt at an auction. His young son Albert bonds with the colt and names it Joey. When World War I breaks out, the farmer sells Joey to the military to pay for his failing farm. Albert is heartbroken. Major Nicholls, the officer who takes Joey, promises Albert that he will look after his beloved horse. Joey meets Topthorn, another army horse, and the two become a team. Soon after arriving on the battlefields of France, Major Nicholls dies in battle, and the Germans capture Topthorn and Joey. The horses stay on a farm where Emilie a young French girl cares for them along with a kindly German soldier named Friedrich.  Joey runs away and into "no man's land." the gap between the Germans and Allied trenches, where he is won by British soldiers in a coin toss. Severely injured, Joey is taken to the veterinarian at the army camp. Albert is at the same camp because he has been temporarily blinded by poison gas during an attack. The vet decides that Joey is too injured to save. Moments before the vet is set to meet with Joey,   Albert finds him. Albert vows to help Joey recover. As the war ends, the two return home to the farm together. 



Salute to the Queen


Adapting the Book to a Play


Handspring Puppet Company

Over the past 30 years Handspring Puppet Company has participated in the creation of over 16 theatre productions. The company has done work for young audiences and for television. The majority of their work has been for the theatre.


The Puppets

Adrian Kohler created a puppet prototype that was life-size, lightweight and exceptionally strong so that an actor could ride it. He built the horse's skeletal frame out of cane because he could mold it easily, and it gave the puppet an anatomical shape. He detailed the frame with wood, elastic, leather and wire. Three puppeteers operated the horse. Two were inside the body (the heart and the hind).  The third (the "head"), was outside the puppet and wore a costume to blend   with the human actors. Handspring also developed the other puppets for the show including Joey as a colt, the military horse Topthorn, the cavalry horses and soldiers, crows and a goose.  


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