One of the biggest successes in British theatre in recent years will be on stage in Paris for the first time in November and December. The National Theatre’s production of War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is an emotional rollercoaster of a story about a teenage boy and his horse during the First World War. The award-winning production will be performed in English.
The National Theatre first adapted Morpurgo’s novel in 2007. Since then no less than 11 million people have seen the play worldwide.
War Horse focuses on a horse, Joey, who is sold by an English farmer to the Army in 1914, when a great number of horses are needed for the First World War. Albert, the farmer’s son, has a strong bond with Joey and is desperate to see him leave. He tries to join up to follow him, but at 16 is too young. He ultimately does join the Army and tries to find Joey, who has served as a cavalry horse, been captured by the Germans and lived with a French family before getting trapped in No Man’s Land.
The great difficulty in staging the story was finding a way to make Joey a real, believable presence on stage. The solution came from Handspring, a pioneering South African puppetry company. They produced life-sized horse puppets of Joey as a foal and an adult, and Topthorn, a cavalry horse he befriends. The puppets are each manipulated by three people on stage, and they are visible to the audience, but their skill is such that audiences routinely feel the horses are alive, and bond emotionally with them.
Michael Morpurgo is a highly respected children’s author, and the book is very accessible for students learning English. A study of part or all of the book and a trip to see the play would be a fantastic learning experience. The book was also made into a film by Steven Spielberg in 2011, giving another angle.
The National Theatre site has lots of teaching materials for working with the play. http://www.warhorseonstage.com/learning/
The play will be performed at La Seine Musicale in Boulogne-Billancourt. Watch this space for a special offer for class groups reserving tickets.
29 Nov-29 Dec 2019
La Seine Musicale, Boulogne-Billancourt
Not recommended for children under 12
The National Theatre