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Now in its eighth year in London, the National Theatre’s production of War Horse has become a theatre favourite. It’s an unforgettable experience and has gained global fame partly due to its life-like puppetry. Based on the Michael Morpurgo novel, it focuses on the relationship between a boy named Albert and his horse Joey. Joey is taken away from Albert and is sold to the cavalry at the outbreak of World War One. The story focuses on Albert’s search to find his beloved horse.
Joey and Topthorn, a large sleek horse who together steal the show, are intricately made in South Africa by the Handspring Puppet Company and maintained at the onsite workshop at the theatre in London. Each horse weighs around twelve stone and is controlled by three actors, who undergo an eight week rehearsal period, two of which are solely learning puppetry and how to work together as a team to play their positions within the horse. The head, the heart and the legs are the three main movements of the puppets. This makes sure that the puppets are never static on stage, allowing them to always come to life.
The puppets are joined on stage by 32 other cast members, with every actor taking on multiple character roles throughout the performance. As an official outfitter to the officers of the H.M Forces and Woman Services, one particular interest to us was the costumes used in the show, which are mainly military uniform, made to the original specifications that were worn by the armed forces during World War One. Made using tweed sourced in Britain, each characters’ costume is duplicated so that they have a clean version and a more ‘worn’ version with mud splattered across the pieces.
For your chance to win tickets to the show and find out more about the War Horse performance, click here.
Photo Credits: Ellie Kurttz, National Theatre, Brinkhoff Mogenburg, Handspring Shop.