Monday, 4 August 2014

"The Play's the Thing"
Last week, I went with my daughter, Jo, to see 'War Horse' at The Lowry  in Manchester and what a treat that was!  As I'm sure many of you will know, it's a National Theatre production based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo. Although it premiered in 2007, it seemed fitting to be watching it in this centenary year of WW1 and even more appropriate to be writing this post today , 4th August 2014, exactly one hundred years since Britain declared war on Germany. As we watched the performance unfold, we almost forgot that the horses on stage were puppets which were so cleverly brought to life by the expertise of the puppeteers. The human cost of the war is well documented. An estimated ten million people died and we are quite rightly remembering them in numerous ceremonies around the world today. What the play did was to remind the audience that there were forgotten heroes too, the horses that accompanied the soldiers to France. In 'War Horse', Michael Morpurgo gives us an insight into what the horses experienced on the battle front. He imagined the story of one of the horses, Joey, who was sold off a Devon farm and had to leave Albert, the boy who owned him, to go to the Front to be used by the British cavalry. The poignant story was told through the horse's eyes and we saw scenes of Joey charging towards the enemy, being caught up in barbed wire and eventually being captured by the Germans. He was used to pull guns and ambulances and spent the winter on a French farm. By writing from the horse's point of view, Michael Morpurgo didn't take sides. He was able to explore the futility of war and create in his opinion, 'a story of reconciliation and reunion.' 'War Horse' is more than just about 'a war, a horse and a boy,' he says. 'It is an anthem for peace, and reflects, I think, a universal longing for a world without war.'

Steven Spielberg's film helped to familiarise people with the book but it is the success of the stage production that has contributed to making 'War Horse' a best seller. As Shakespeare said, 'The play's the thing...' Nearly five million people have now seen the play in theatres all over the world.

Is there a book that you have seen adapted as a film and/or stage play? What did you think of the adaptations?

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  1. I tend to avoid watching the film if I've enjoyed the book as I'm usually disappointed. A play might be different though as the audience are required to use their imagination to some extent and therefore become engaged in the story as they do when reading.

    Watching a film or TV adaptation seems much more passive.

    1. I agree with you about film or TV, Patsy. I loved 'Birdsong' by Sebastian Faulks but didn't enjoy the BBC adaption as it jarred against the images I'd created in my head. With 'War Horse' on stage, however, we were so engaged with the story throughout. For me, the images that were projected like a floating cloud above the action on stage and were based on the sketches of an artist Captain James Nicholls, a character in the play, enhanced rather than detracted from the story. Thanks for commenting.