War Horse is coming home to Devon
Westcountry author Michael Morpurgo's moving story War Horse will be seen on the Westcountry stage next autumn, when the National Theatre begins its UK and Ireland tour of the theatrical version in Plymouth.
Michael Morpurgo, who lives in North Devon, was in London yesterday to launch the national tour of the Olivier and Tony award-winning production.
Originally a book and then a film directed by Steven Spielberg, 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 the First World War.
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.
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"I'm very, very, excited," said Mr Morpurgo yesterday. "War Horse is coming home; Joey's coming home. And what's marvellous is I never thought it would.
"This tour is very important. For me it is the most important, because time and again, as I go around talking to kids, I say 'you must go and see the play' and they say 'we can't, it's too expensive to go to London'.
"But now it is coming to them."
The play, which premiered at the National Theatre in 2007, has been seen by more than 2.4 million people worldwide since then.
National Theatre producer Chris Harper said, "We're delighted that our production of War Horse will soon be touring the UK and visiting Dublin and we are particularly thrilled that the tour opens in Devon, where the play is set. As well as London, New York, a US tour and Australia, War Horse finally comes home."
Nick Stafford, who adapted Mr Morpurgo's book for the stage, said it was "wonderful" to be announcing the first UK tour of the play.
"We kept on saying to ourselves 'when are we going to take it on tour around the UK?' because the mission at the National Theatre is to reach as many people in the UK as we possibly can, so this really is a wonderful moment to say we will be launching War Horse in Plymouth, very fittingly in Devon where the story began."
Mr Morpurgo says that the show has carried on evolving. "It's difficult because war is not entertaining – it should never be entertaining – and yet the National Theatre have created an extraordinary show," he said. "What is brilliant about these people is that they don't rest on their laurels. They have carried on tweaking it, shaping it and sharpening it all the time."
There is speculation that the decision to begin the UK tour in Plymouth could be linked to the theatre's excellent production facilities at TR2 where they have been involved in producing sets, props and costumes for tours of major shows including Mary Poppins, Miss Saigon, Little Mermaid and The Ladykillers.
War Horse features ground-breaking puppetry work by South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company, which brings breathing and galloping horses to life on stage. Now in its fourth year in London's West End, it consistently attracts sell-out houses at the New London Theatre.
The Broadway production continues until January. It was the winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Play and a Special Tony Award for Handspring Puppet Company. The London version won two Olivier awards, and the feature film was nominated for six Oscars.
Tickets go on sale at the Theatre Royal Plymouth on October 10 for a month-long run, from September 27 to October 12, 2013. It then continues on a nationwide tour for ten months.