The wait is nearly over – Melbourne has secured the Australian premiere production of Olivier and Tony Award-winning play War Horse after the NSW Government “passed up the chance” to host the production in order to invest in Strictly Ballroom, the musical, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Described by the Sunday Times as “the theatre event of the decade”, War Horse has wowed critics and audiences alike in London’s West End and on Broadway, and the Melbourne production will be presented by The National Theatre of Great Britain and Global Creatures, in association with the Arts Centre in late 2012 at the State Theatre.
The War Horse announcement marks the second major Australian premiere this week for Melbourne, with Ghost The Musical officially announced on Thursday for 2013.
Echoing the words of Victorian Minister for Major Events, Louise Asher at the Ghost launch, Premier Ted Baillieu said the announcement that Melbourne would stage War Horse confirmed Melbourne’s status as the theatre capital of Australia.
“It is a great honour for Melbourne to be chosen by the UK’s National Theatre to host the Australian premiere season of what is from all accounts a truly impressive theatre production,” Mr Baillieu said. “Melbourne is the best place to enjoy this award-winning and highly innovative production and I am sure many Victorians and visitors will flock to Melbourne’s Arts Centre to relish its delights”.
War Horse premiered at London’s National Theatre on 9 October 2007 and played in the Olivier for 92 performances until 14 February 2008. Over 104,000 people saw this world premiere production. The show was so popular, it enjoyed a return season at the National Theatre playing from 10 September 2008 – 18 March 2009 for a total of 114 performances and was seen by a further 130,000 people.
In 2009, War Horse transferred to the West End with its first performance at the New London Theatre on 28 March 2009, and it currently booking until 27 October 2012 at the New London Theatre. The show has been and seen and loved by The Queen, Prince Phillip, Princess Anne, Prince William and Prince Harry as well as countless celebrities including Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Susan Sarandon, Sharon Stone, Diana Ross, Diane Keaton and Ian McKellen.
Producers of the Australian production are hopeful that our ANZAC spirit will allow Melbourne audiences to enjoy the story all the more.
“The ANZAC spirit is deeply entrenched in the Australian ethos. We expect War Horse to have a great resonance in this country not only because of our connection to World War I but because themes of the land, loss and the ultimate triumph of friendship have a special place in the Australian psyche.” says Carmen Pavlovic, CEO of Global Creatures.
Nick Stafford’s stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s book, War Horse is a magnificent drama which tells the heart wrenching story of Joey, the beloved horse of a boy called Albert, who is sold to the cavalry at the outbreak of World War I 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. A
t its heart are astonishing life-size puppets strong enough for men to ride, created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, who bring breathing, galloping, charging horses to life on the stage. Life size horses traverse the stage, their flanks, hides and sinews built of steel, leather and aircraft cables. Actors, working with these astonishing, life-sized puppets, will lead Australian audiences on an emotionally-charged journey through history.
The show has also played at New York’s Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Centre and another production is due to open in February 2012 in Toronto, Canada with a US tour scheduled to start in Los Angeles in June 2012. In addition to this, Steven Spielberg’s new movie adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel will be released by DreamWorks Studios in late 2011.
War Horse is a phenomenon, and with 18 puppets (including horses, a goose, two swallows and two crows), the show is said to be suitable for children 10 years and above.
“War Horse is a life affirming story about friendship, courage and family, which appeals to all ages. This is a production that brings the family together, we get people coming back again and again, and they always have the same reaction. It awakens something in you” says Chris Harper, Producer, National Theatre of Great Britain.
Tickets to War Horse at the Arts Centre’s State Theatre will go on sale early in 2012.
Directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris
Designed by Rae Smith
Puppet design and fabrication by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler for Handspring Puppet Company
Lighting by Paule Constable
Movement and horse choreography by Toby Sedgwick
Puppetry directors are Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler
Video design by Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer Songmaker John Tams
Music by Adrian Sutton
Sound by Christopher Shutt