The Story of War Horse

War Horse is a heart-warming tale of friendship, loyalty and bravery between Albert, a teenager growing up on a farm in the English countryside, Devon, and his beloved horse Joey.


Joey is a foal when Albert’s father buys him in an auction. Albert is trusted by his parents to take care of the foal. He names him Joey and teaches him a special whistle call. A life-long friendship is established.


They encounter their first challenge when Albert is to train foal Joey to plough in 7 days, a bet Albert’s father made with his brother Arthur, who wants to buy Joey. In order to keep Joey, Albert introduces him to the collar, the bridle, the reins and the plough. In just 7 days and against all odds, Joey proves himself a smart foal, hard pulling the plough to victory! 


As WW1 has begun, Albert’s father needs to raise money by selling Joey to the British Army. Albert is desperate seeing Joey leave.


Albert’s cousin Billy and the other village men enlist in the Army, but Albert is too young to enlist. He craves news of Joey, which is shipped from England to the battlefield in France.


Unable to forget Joey, Albert runs away to join the British Army and arrives in France, determined to find Joey and bring him home.


The smart and brave Joey, growing fast into an adult, is soon caught up in enemy fire as a war horse. Fate takes him on an extraordinary journey, serving the Allies and eventually captured by the Germans. He is forced to pull artillery guns and tanks before being left on his own in No Man’s Land, surrounded by trenches and barbed wire.

Tony Award Winning Puppetry Design

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At the heart of this powerfully moving and imaginative drama, filled with stirring music and songs, are the astonishing life-sized puppet horses. They are created, hand-made by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company.


The horses in War Horse are each operated by three puppeteers – the Head, the Heart and the Hind. These talented puppeteers bring whinnying, galloping and charging horses to thrilling life on stage. After a short time people forget they are watching puppet horses and just see the characters as in Joey as a Foal, adult Joey and his war time companion Topthorn!


  • War Horse has 23 puppets, including horses Joey and Topthorn, as well as a goose, two swallows, tank and two crows.
  • They are handmade by 14 craftsmen and women and takes 8 months to build a complete set of puppets.
  • Each horse is made of cane, leather and tyvec, a material used in book-binding (for the manes and tails). The torso is reinforced with aluminium and able to carry a rider on top.
  • The finished horse puppets weight approximately 43 kilos for the body, including the puppeteer’ backpacks, and another 7.7 kilos for the head

(Click to view full images)

Puppeteers and Performers

The Puppeteers


The main horses are operated by three puppeteers who are named the head, the heart and the hind. 


The three puppeteers work together as one to create the character of each horse and to  produce the horse noises. They need to train for eight weeks before they begin performing, the training includes basic principles of puppetry before they work specifically on creating the horses. 

Topthorn (right), a cavalry horse, becomes a close companion of Joey’s during the war. 

The Cast


Here are some of the main characters from the play.  Sometimes one actor will play more than one person but it should be clear from their costume and the situation that they are playing someone different.


To see who’s playing these characters, please visit

warhorseonstage.com/about/cast-creatives.

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Innovative Set Design

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In his author’s note for War Horse, Michael Morpugo wrote that the inspiration of the War Horse story came from 'a tarnished old oil painting of some unknown horse’, on the frame of which were inscribed the horse’s name Joey and painter’s name Captain James Nicholls. The date was Autumn 2014.


Nicholls’ painting of Joey provided a clue for War Horse's Designer Rae Smith, who knows too well how drawings can be the quickest way to communicate ideas to people.

 

Rae decided to create a ‘poetic’ solution for the stage design of War Horse, and began creating her own version of

Captain Nicholls’ sketchbook which quickly ran to more than 100 drawings.


She ingeniously transforms a page ripped from Nicholls’ sketchbook to a huge, 25-metre wide projection screen above the stage. Each scene of the play is to become a drawing of a landscape, a floating cloud, a horizon or a battlefield that moves quickly from one scene to another and with the speed of the audience’s imagination. 


For more War House drawings by Rae Smith, please visit her website.

Above is the animated sketch book produced by Pete Stenhouse (animation) that travels from idyllic Devon to the horror of WWI battlefields.

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Joey Around The World

To date, the show has been seen in 97 cities in 11 countries around the world to nearly 8 million people including Productions on Broadway, in Toronto and Berlin, with touring productions in the UK and Ireland, North America, the Netherlands, Belgium and China.


Audiences include: The Queen, Prince Philip, Prince William, Prince Harry, Michael Caine, Steven Spielburg, Sharon Stones, Diane Keaton, Hugh Jackman, Madonna, Martin Clunes and many more.

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(Click to view full images)

Awards

War Horse is the winner of more than 25 international awards


London Production

2007 Evening Standard Awards

  • Best Director (Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, nominee)
  • Best Design (Rae Smith and the Handspring Puppet Company, winner)


2007 Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards

  • Best Designer (Basil Jones, Adrian Kohler, Rae Smith, and the Handspring Puppet Company, winner)


2008 Laurence Olivier Awards

  • Best New Play (Nick Stafford, nominee)
  • Best Lighting Design (Paule Constable, nominee)
  • Best Sound Design (Adrian Sutton and John Tams, nominee)
  • Best Set Design (Rae Smith, Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, winner)
  • Best Theatre Choreographer (Toby Sedgwick, winner)
  • Best Director (Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, nominee)


2010 Laurence Olivier Awards

  • Audience Award for Most Popular Show (nominee)


2012 TheatrePeople.com Awards

  • Nominated for ‘Favourite Play’ and ‘Favourite Family Show’


2012 Whatsonstage Best West End Show Award


2015 Mousetrap Award for Best Play



Broadway Production

2011 Drama League Awards

  • Distinguished Production of a Play (winner)
  • Distinguished Performance (Seth Numrich, nominee)


2011 Tony Awards

  • Best Play (Nick Stafford, winner)
  • Best Direction of a Play (Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, winner)
  • Best Scenic Design of a Play (Rae Smith, winner)
  • Best Lighting Design of a Play (Paule Constable, winner)
  • Best Sound Design of a Play (Christopher Shutt, winner)

In addition, Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of Handspring Puppet Company won the Special Tony Award for War Horse. 


2011 Drama Desk Awards

  • Outstanding Play (winner)


2011 Outer Critics Circle Awards

  • Outstanding New Broadway Play (winner)
  • Outstanding Director of a Play (Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, winner)
  • Outstanding Lighting Design (Paule Constable, winner)
  • Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play (Seth Numrich, nominee)

In addition, Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of Handspring Puppet Company won the Outer Critics Circle Special Achievement Award, for “Puppet Design, Fabrication and Direction for War Horse” 


2011 Fred & Adele Astaire Awards

  • Best Broadway Choreographer (Toby Sedgwick, nominee)


South African Production  

  • Fleur du Cap Award for Best Puppetry Design

Are you a teacher? We offer a range of workshops and events to support your students’ connection with the production.

★★★★★

‘A Landmark Theatre Event’

TIME Magazine

★★★★★

‘An Entertainment Phenomenon’

The Daily Telegraph

★★★★★

‘Theatrical Magic’

The New York Times

Photos of original London cast by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

All rights reserved © 2019 War Horse

Running Time: Approx. 2hr45mins with an interval

Venue Address: Lyric Theatre, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Wanchai

Show times: 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 6:00pm, 7:45pm

Dates: Fri 10 May - Sat 25 May 2019