War Horse - Backstage Tour
This Tuesday morning, fifteen lucky year 5 and year 6s spent a fascinating couple of hours exploring the exciting world of the Marlowe Theatre. The theatre was in full swing of the touring production of War Horse. Narrated from an unusual perspective, Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse tells a powerful story of humanity and friendship that touches people of all ages: in 1914, Joey, a young farm horse, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges towards the enemy, witnessing the horror of the frontline. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey's courage touches the soldiers around him.
Having arrived promptly, we were ready when our guides for the morning – Marissa and Paul- invited us to explore a touring chest of artefacts from the Imperial War museum. Some of the artefacts were originals and some were replicas, with objects ranging from a hand-embroidered birthday card sent to someone on the front-line to an original German Helmet. We had an interesting time examining these before discussing their relevance to the visiting production.
We then moved into the theatre and sat absorbing the atmosphere while our guides explained the workings of the production team. Behind them on stage were several production team members carrying out the necessary activities required of a busy stage play. Moving to behind the stage, we found ourselves standing amidst costumes, props and the famous war horse puppets. We were kindly asked not photograph the horse puppets which, although disappointing, was completely understandable. For anyone fortunate enough to have seen the production, you will know that the horse puppets provide a magical, very lifelike, portrayal of real horses; part of the magic of a theatre production which would be lost if all the tricks and props were laid bare for all to see. We were welcomed onto the stage by the production manager of War Horse, and several of his touring production team. Throughout the whole tour, our Marlowe guide was with us, explaining the roles of the Marlowe production team and the touring team. Standing amidst the props and puppets of one of London’s most ambitious theatre productions was a real treat and the children were full of questions.
As an added and unexpected bonus, our Marlowe guide invited us up into what is known in theatre land as ‘the gods’: the highest point from where all the lighting for the whole stage is controlled. So up we went, right to the top gallery from where we could see everything. The very technical system of lighting and back stage communication was carefully explained to us, and again the children were full of questions.
Finally, back down and the chance to peek into one of the many dressing rooms and a quick drink in the area backstage where the actors do their often many and quick costumes changes. After more questions from the children, our guide took us back to the main foyer. We were able to gaze with informed eyes on the posters advertising the evening’s show, and all the children expressed how much they wanted to see a performance. Perhaps, our guide informed us, when the production returns after its countrywide tour, we would get a chance to see the show. For now, it is a completely sold out. Having seen at first hand the work and excitement which goes into a production, we can understand why.