The critically acclaimed War Horse will be coming to Liverpool for the first time on its national tour in November when it will grace the Liverpool Empire stage.
War Horse (based on the novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo) is the story of a farm boy called Albert and his horse Joey. You watch them grow up together and their relationship evolve until the outbreak of World War One when Joey is sold to the army. You see both sides of the horrifying battlefields of the war through Joey’s innocent eyes, truly capturing how tragic and terrible it was, whilst hoping that he and Albert will one day be reunited.
At an event held last week showcasing the play and giving insight into some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the production, guests were invited to learn more about what it takes to create a phenomenon like War Horse – from how the concept for the show came about and the journey of creating the puppets, to a demonstration of how ‘Joey’ the horse is brought to life.
‘Joey’ is operated by three expert puppeteers, and was handcrafted by the Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa. It was explained that a series of levers and mechanisms on the horse are specially placed in the same way muscles and tendons would be in a real horse, therefore allowing for the movements of the puppet to be made to look so lifelike on stage and for Joey’s puppeteers to be able to make him so believable.
All the actors in the play are required to spend some time around horses, to gain a good understanding of them, so that they can make their behaviour around Joey so much more realistic on stage. The puppeteers must have a deep knowledge of horse psychology, understanding how horses behave and react to things, making all of Joey’s noises themselves. They explained how the power of a horse’s lungs is about the same as that of three sets of human lungs, meaning they can share the sounds out equally between them, so it sounds so much more real. All of this contributes to the suspense of the audience’s disbelief.
With such an intricate technique, only after watching a mere few minutes of Joey on stage do you actually forget that it is a puppet and not a real horse before you. This helps you to become fully absorbed in the story.
‘War Horse’ ran for seven years on the West End, with many productions all around the globe, and as of March 2016 it had been seen by over seven million people worldwide. In 2011 it won 6 Tony Awards, including a special award for the Handspring Puppet Company.
Having personally seen War Horse performed in London two years ago, I urge anyone who can to go and see it. It is not just a play, but a true experience. Expect to hope, cry and be moved. It is an incredible piece of theatre, unlike any other.
War Horse will play at the Liverpool Empire Theatre, from 15 November – 2 December 2017.
For more information and tickets: visit the Liverpool Empire Box Office, call 0844 871 3017 or visit atgtickets.com/Liverpool.