Nine months and two days before the curtain rises for a 31 performance run of the National Theatre’s hit show War Horse, the star of the show Joey arrived in Birmingham for the show launch. Development Manager Eve Smith describes her first event since joining the Hippodrome in December...
Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and adapted for stage by Nick Stafford, War Horse tells a tale of courage, loyalty and friendship set during World War I. The play is brought to life by the skill and craftsmanship of the puppeteers who having studied horse behaviour, have the power to guide the audience through an array of emotions with a simple flick of the ears, shuffle of hooves or bow of the head. And it was this delicate interaction that was on display during the launch event.
The launch began with a short presentation from National Theatre Director Chris Harper who talked of his pleasure of bringing War Horse to Birmingham in particular. Chris was born in Stourbridge and remembers his first experience of coming to the Hippodrome to see Panto, aged just five. Having received international acclaim since it premiered at the National Theatre in 2007, he described the personal thrill of bringing such a beautiful production home to what he considers the best theatre in the world.
The audience then heard from Toby Olié Associate Puppetry Director and former Joey Puppeteer in the West End and Broadway. Handmade from cane and mesh by Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa the horses are operated by three puppeteers – the head, the heart and the hind. Each team goes through around 8-12 weeks of training in order to learn how to function as one portraying emotion without speech or signal; it’s the ultimate in team work. Toby put Joey through his paces, showing us the differences in puppetry work between a walk, canter and gallop after which Joey exclaimed his excitement by rearing up on his hind legs. As the presentation ended, audience members were invited to get a closer look. Everyone was fascinated by how real Joey seemed to be and I noticed how wary people were walking behind him, fearing that he would kick out at them.
Having recently joined the Hippodrome I was looking forward to this event, not only because it was a chance to hear from the War Horse team but because I also got the opportunity to meet some of the people who so kindly support the theatre by being Patrons. It was great to meet Lola, Win, Jennifer and Roger and share this experience with them – I know they were delighted to be there and gained additional insight into the theatre and productions.
You can see an exclusive video of the launch here.
War Horse is now on sale to the general public and the show runs from Weds 16 Oct – Sat 9 Nov. Call the Box Office on 0844 338 5000 or click here for more info & to book online.
Birmingham Hippodrome offers an array of benefits for Patrons, including special event invitations like the War Horse launch, backstage tours, priority booking and much, much more. For further information contact Eve Smith on 0121 689 3067 or email firstname.lastname@example.org