Previewed 9 October 2007, Opened 17 October 2007, Closed 14 February 2008, returned 10 September 2008 to 18 March 2009 at the Olivier Theatre in London
Previewed 28 March 2009, Opened 3 April 2009, Closed 12 March 2016 at the New London Theatre in London
The National Theatre's award-winning acclaimed stage production of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse in London adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford, directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris and featuring the extraordinary life-sized horses designed by the Handspring Puppet Company.
At the outbreak of World War one, Joey, young Albert's beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. He’s soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man's land. But Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to find him and bring him home.
Following His Dark Materials and Coram Boy, the National Theatre's new epic is based on the celebrated novel by the children's Laureate (2003-05) Michael Morpurgo. Actors working with magnificent, life-sized puppets by the internationally renowned Handspring Puppet company lead us on a gripping journey through history. Please note that this production is suitable for 12 year olds and above.
When this production opened at the National Theatre Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times highlighted that in this "moving stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo children's novel... the result is a marvellous piece of theatre, often desolate, often terrible, often moving and finally uplifting." Paul Taylor in the Independent described it as being an "extraordinarily fresh and moving production." Michael Billington in the Guardian wrote that "if the story steers perilously close to sentimentality, there is no denying the visual bravura of the puppet-driven production by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris... but the narrative failings are overcome by the brilliant work of the Handspring Puppet Company, who give Joey, his companion Topthorn, and a bevy of steeds an articulated life... with the dazzling puppet design of Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler." Sam Marlowe in the Times said that "now and then the theatre throws up a piece of work so exhilarating that it makes you rejoice to be alive. War Horse is just such an occasion... the creative team has translated Morpurgo's limpid, emotionally dense prose into a sweeping drama of extraordinary power... it's heart-breakingly beautiful." Nicholas de Jongh in the London Evening Standard described the production as being "a fine, lyrical, emotionally charged piece of theatrical work that evokes a vanished, hierarchic England at war... achieves an epic scope and scale." Julie Carpenter in the Daily Express hailed "the quite astounding horse puppets," saying it was "as moving and inventive as this excellent production." In the Daily Telegraph Charles Spencer said that: "This is much more than a puppet show, however. Nick Stafford's powerful adaptation of Morpurgo's novel brilliantly captures not only the mysterious and intense relationship that can exist between humans and animals, but also the dreadful waste and terror of the Great War... it is one of the most powerfully moving and imaginative productions of the year." When this production moved to the New London Theatre Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail wrote that "as drama it remains a uniquely moving spectacle... The fluidity of Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris's direction is quite simply virtuoso... But forget all that, because for its ability to feed and sustain the imagination, this production remains a theatrical thoroughbred." Michael Coveney in the Independent highlighted that "Joey the horse in the National's wonderful staging of Michael Morpurgo's 1982 play War Horse has galloped from the Olivier to the welcoming expanses of the New London. It's a perfect fit... a unique confluence of design, puppetry, music, and spectacular theatrics" while Benedict Nightingale in the Times exclaimed "be sure not to miss this stunning show."
"You sometimes wonder if we might become inured to the tragic horrors of the first world war, we've had them filmed, dramatised and fictionalised for us so many times. But Michael Morpurgo's celebrated children's novel War Horse, in this immensely skilful adaptation by Nick Stafford, conspires to bring us the reality of those four terrible years afresh, by seeing them through the eyes of a dumb but by no means stupid animal... War Horse only confirms the National's extraordinary new knack of turning children's literature into the finest drama. Stunning." The Sunday Times
"A foal is born. The stiff-legged star walks gingerly across the Olivier stage, his head hanging down, too heavy for his long neck: his ears stand up like giant leaves; his long tail swishes across his back; his large eyes glow and glitter. In a triumph of theatricality, this beast that so quivers with life is entirely manufactured - and is seen to be so, even while he looks so tender. The equine heroes of War Horse, a heart-stopping staging of Michael Morpurgo's First World War story, are creations of the South African Handspring Puppet Company... War Horse will be one of the National's biggest ever hits: it is inventive, distinguished and it makes audiences cry. Nick Stafford has with great ingenuity remoulded the narrative that Morpurgo wrote for young readers 25 years ago, in which the grief of the 1914-18 war are traced through the fate of horses sent to the Front." The Observer
"This year's festive treat is War Horse, which offers a gritty, uncompromising account of how a young man and his horse fare on the Western Front during the First World War... Nick Stafford's adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's classic children's novel makes for a fine, majestic and unforgettable piece of theatre, but I wouldn't regard it as suitable for any youngster under the age of 15. I have no doubt there are those who would say that children are a lot less shockable today than they used to be, but I wonder." The Sunday Telegraph
War Horse in London is presented in association with Handspring Puppet Company. It was originally presented at The National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in London where it previewed from 9 October 2007, opened on 17 October 2007 and closed on 14 February 2008. The production then returned the following year from 10 September 2008 to 18 March 2009. Warhorse transferred to the New London Theatre in the West End where it previewed from 28 March 2009, opened on 3 April 2009 and closed on 12 March 2016.