Previewed 9 October 2007, Opened 17 October 2007, Closed 14 February 2008 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre
Returned 10 September 2008, Closed 18 March 2009 at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre
Previewed 28 March 2009, Opened 3 April 2009, Closed 12 March 2016 at the New London Theatre (now Gillian Lynne Theatre)
Previewed 18 October 2019, Opened 1 November 2019, Closed 23 November 2019 at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre
The National Theatre's award-winning acclaimed stage production of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse in London for a strictly limited season
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. Featuring the extraordinary life-sized horses designed by the Handspring Puppet Company.
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.
Play by Nick Stafford, from the novel by Michael Morpurgo.
Directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris (2007-2016), directed for tour by Katie Henry (2019), movement by Toby Sedgwick, designs by Rae Smith, video by Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer, puppets by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler for Handspring Puppet Company, lighting by Paule Constable, music by Adrian Sutton, and sound by Christopher Shutt.
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."
"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... There are images in this play that still haunt me more than one week on. There is something about seeing violence inflicted upon horses that is peculiarly distressing, even more perhaps than seeing it inflicted upon humans... When I say that Joey, the war horse of the title, is operated by two actors in his hindquarters and a third propping up his head you will think that it sounds like something out of a traditional pantomime and wonder why I am making such a fuss. This creation, designed by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler of the Handspring Puppet Company, is, however, an altogether more sophisticated and beautiful affair... The end result is quite simply amazing. When this mighty beast gallops - to the stirring music of Adrian Sutton - I felt the hairs on the back of my head standing up." The Sunday Telegraph
"War Horse is pure animal magic. Michael Morpurgo's heart-breaking, heart-warming story of love, loyalty, war and waste is told from the point of view of Joey, a handsome gelding. Joey grows up on a Devon farm and is brought on by young Albert, only to be sold to the cavalry at the outbreak of the First World War, ridden into battle in Calais by Major Nicholls and eventually caught up in the wilderness of barbed wire between the French and German armies. Nick Stafford's adaptation mercifully avoids any soppy anthropomorphic horse-talk and leaves it to Albert, his family, neighbours and British as well as German soldiers to chart Albert's pursuit of Joey... The piece not only captures the essential nobility and power these beasts have, but also the extraordinary affection between horsy people and their equine friends." The Mail on Sunday
"This is the National Theatre's new adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novella for young adolescents which tells the story of a Devonshire farm horse who's sold to the British cavalry but survives the terrors of the First World War with courage and stamina. He is Morpurgo's war hero and the show's life-size steeds - designed by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppet Company - are absolutely magnificent... However, it must be said that other aspects of this ambitious production - co-directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris - are not so amazing. I didn't massively object to the numerous alterations made to he original story, which is after all an unfeasible monologue by the titular quadruped. But Nick Stafford's adaptation is nothing to write home about. Several fine actors struggle with lame and stilted speeches... For all that, it's a touching and extraordinary evening." The Independent on Sunday
War Horse in London at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre previewed from 18 October 2019, opened on 1 November 2019, and closed on 23 November 2019