The National Theatre’s global smash-hit production of War Horse, the unforgettable theatrical event based on Michael Morpurgo’s beloved novel, will embark on an 18-month UK tour from 05 September 2024, touring through to 2026.
Opening at the New Wimbledon Theatre on 05 September, War Horse will take residency at New Theatre Oxford over the festive season from 10 December 2024 to 04 January 2025.
War Horse, adapted by Nick Stafford and originally directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, has become the most successful play in the history of the National Theatre, winning more than 25 major awards and has been seen by over 8.3 million people worldwide. This all-new tour is co-produced with Michael Harrison, Fiery Angel, and Playing Field.
War Horse tells the remarkable story of a young boy called Albert and his horse, Joey, set against the backdrop of the First World War.
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 journey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man’s land. Albert, who remained on his parents’ Devon farm, cannot forget Joey. Though not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to find and bring him home.
This powerfully moving and imaginative drama is a show of phenomenal inventiveness, filled with stirring music and songs, featuring ground-breaking puppetry work by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, which brings breathing, galloping, charging horses to thrilling life on stage and has inspired a generation of theatre-makers since its premiere in 2007.
Director Tom Morris said, “It is a huge privilege to be invited to revisit War Horse and to share this powerful story once more with audiences around the country. Michael Morpurgo’s brilliant idea, to explore the crushing violence of war through the experience of a horse, makes his story as powerful and resonant today as it has ever been.
“And in this time of increasing commercialism in theatre, it’s worth remembering that the production which carried War Horse to an international audience was a wild experiment, developed through workshops at the National Theatre Studio, the unique theatre laboratory where ground-breaking hits from Coram Boy and London Road to The Witches were devised.
“It has been an enormous thrill to return there in recent months to reunite Adrian Kohler’s magnificent puppets with designer Rae Smith, composer Adrian Sutton and other members of the original cast and creative team to start the process of bringing Joey back to the stage.”
Author Michael Morpurgo said: “I am so delighted the National Theatre’s iconic production of War Horse is back! When Covid closed the show down in 2020 in Australia in the midst of its second World Tour, many thought, and I was amongst them, that we’d never see War Horse on stage again.
“Now it’s really happening – we will hear the music and songs, be amazed by its design and lighting, and live Joey’s story again. War Horse is about the tragedy of war and about a horse and his boy, but it’s also so many other things – it’s about family and community, courage and loss, hope, and most importantly reconciliation.”
This tour of War Horse marks 110 years since the start of the First World War and follows the 40th anniversary of the publication of Michael Morpurgo’s global best-selling novel, which has now sold over 35 million copies worldwide and in 37 different languages.
Executive Director of the National Theatre, Kate Varah, said: “We are delighted that we are able to launch this major new UK tour of War Horse. This moving and spectacular production has captured the imagination of millions of audience members across the world since it was first performed on the Olivier stage in 2007.
“We are deeply appreciative and excited to be working with our co-producers to make this possible in the current landscape. We look forward to connecting with our partner venues with this much-loved story, that appeals to all ages and which beautifully showcases the magic of live performance.”
Creative development for the tour is being led by Tom Morris with revival director Katie Henry, featuring reimagined designs by Rae Smith and additional music by Adrian Sutton.
Puppet design and fabrication is by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler for Handspring Puppet Company, lighting design is by Rob Casey, and movement and horse choreography is by Toby Sedgwick with puppet direction by Matthew Forbes.
Animation and projection design is by Nicol Scott for 59 Productions, John Tams is the song maker, and sound design is by Christopher Shutt. The casting is by Jill Green CDG, and the associate designer is Will Fricker. Casting is to be announced.
War Horse received its world premiere on 09 October 2007 at the National Theatre, where it played for two seasons before opening at the New London Theatre in March 2009. Since then, War Horse has been seen in 97 cities in 14 countries, including productions on Broadway, in Toronto and Berlin, with touring productions in the UK and Ireland, North America, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Opening at the New Wimbledon Theatre (05 to 14 September), War Horse will then tour The Lowry, Salford (18 to 28 September), Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (08 to 19 October), The Marlowe, Canterbury (22 October to 02 November), Sunderland Empire (05 to 16 November), Theatre Royal Plymouth (26 November to 07 December), New Theatre Oxford (10 December 2024 to 04 January 2025), with future dates and venues to be announced.