Belfast Telegraph

Michael Morpurgo: I was doubtful that War Horse stage play would see success

The author tells why we must still remember the Joeys and the soldiers of the war more than a century later.

Author Michael Morpurgo has admitted that he doubted the hugely popular stage adaptation of his novel War Horse would ever be a success.

The heart-wrenching wartime tale, which was also turned into a major film in 2011, has become one of the most talked about productions since it came to London’s National Theatre 10 years ago.

But the acclaimed author told how the concept of using giant puppets to recreate his emotional 1982 novel onstage did not fill him with high hopes.

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Morpurgo doubted whether puppets would do justice to Joey (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He told Radio Times magazine: “Ten years ago the National Theatre decided to create a play of War Horse using remarkable puppets created by the Handspring Puppet Company from South Africa.

“Not the most promising of ideas, I thought, but it was Tom Morris at the National Theatre and I thought he might know what he was doing.

“It took two years of faith and work to bring the production to the stage… I remained hopeful, but doubtful.”

But after watching the “great anthem to peace and reconciliation” staged in Berlin, he told how he felt even his actor uncle, who died during the Second World War, would have “loved it”.

Now 73, Morpurgo came up with the idea to recount the horrors of the First World War through the eyes of a horse, Joey, after speaking to veteran officers he met while living in Devon about the bonds between soldiers and animals on the front line.

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Radio Times, out now (Radio Times/PA)

His comments came in the lead-up to the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, one of the war’s bloodiest conflicts that resulted in the deaths of many British troops.

“To be worthy of them,” he said, “we have to sustain the peace, build friendship and understanding and we have to ‘sing the anthem, tell the story’.

“I hope Joey helps to do that.”

Read the full article in Radio Times, out now.

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