My London-Stratford-London diary!


My London-Stratford-London diary in pictures!

adventure

Everything began last January, when I noticed these two tweets by the theatre expert Terry Paddock:

cymbeline-cast  king-lear-cast

I booked as soon as I could manage a new holiday, I wouldn’t have missed the occasion, even if the two plays got an alternate schedule and I had to think about my booking accurately! RSC Oppenheimer’s actor Oliver Johnstone (an actor I’m following for some time) was going to play two opposite characters, one good person and one villain, Edgar and Iachimo. Edgar is my favourite character in King Lear! While I was new to Cymbeline, we didn’t have it in our bookcase, yet, so I bought the book in double language and read it.

I know that isn’t very popular to say so, but I immediately liked the cheeky Iachimo on paper, more than Posthumus, Imogen’s soulmate. I have the impression that William Shakespeare himself didn’t root for this love story, while the sneaky bedroom scene is maybe the best one he wrote in the whole play.

I don’t like Cymbeline (and his wife and step-son) either, another selfish king in the Bard’s long bibliography, who causes his own ruin, as often happens in Shakespeare. While Imogen is lovely and bold, as well as her servant Pisanio, Belarius and his two sons, who are actually the king’s sons. I found the gender changes in the RSC production intriguing.

I also liked the idea of seeing the two plays in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, on the year of the 400th anniversary of his death. I hadn’t visited the city before.

Since I had to travel via London and to stay a few nights there, I took a look to some more plays to watch.

So, here my diary of that new UK adventure.


TUESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER

I went to London via Bologna airport. The day was splendid in Italy, so I could see the surface of my beautiful country from above! I was particularly impressed by the shapes of the San Luca mountain near Bologna and of the Lake of Garda! Pity I didn’t think to take photos, but maybe I enjoyed the view better, with my mp3 player on. While, approaching the UK, the weather went cloudy.

At Heathrow, I changed my booking with two train tickets to Stratford. At my hotel on middle afternoon, I had only to wait for the night to come.

Hobson’s Choice, the play with Martin Shaw and Bryan Dick (an actor I admire and I want to see on stage whenever I’m able) in its cast, was announced at the Vaudeville Theatre after the UK tour. I booked for it on that first night in London. It was a very enjoyable show, I wrote my report there. It was great to be back at that gorgeous theatre to see it!

It was also a real pleasure to meet Bryan Dick at the stage door after the show: he was very lovely, hugged me and signed my programme with a nice dedication! He writes my name right, that’s even nicer! Not common in my experience, haha!


WEDNESDAY 7 SEPTEMBER

war-horse

On the morning, I had an appointment with the National Theatre Archive to see a recording of War Horse, before to go to Stratford. I saw the 2013 and 2015 cast at the New London Theatre already, but consulting the archive online, I noticed they had some recordings of previous cast. At home in Italy, I exchanged some emails with a member of the staff: I asked her if it was possible to watch it again, with Luke Treadaway or Jack Holden in the role of Albert Narracott. It looked like it was possible, she told me I could watch the one with Holden, plus I could consult the script and the programme. I was very happy! I saw some scenes with the actor on the NT 50th DVD and in the 2012 trailer and I was curious to see that performance!

So scheduling my holiday, I posponed for some hours Stratford while booking and I decided to take an appointment at the NTA for that morning. But once at the archive, the woman apologized she thought I could watch the one I wanted, but the NTA put away those recordings, so only the newest are now available to watch there. I was disappointed, but I didn’t protest… too much. The recording was the 2013 one with Sion Daniel Young as Albert, so I decided to watch it again, also because I loved Ian Shaw’s performance as Friedrich Müller. But the programme was the 2015 one, so I didn’t consult it, as I have it at home. I don’t blame the NTA, though. I saw some great recordings, there, so I can’t complain.

Once I left the NTA, I took a walk along The Cut, because it was a bit too early to get to the train station. So I took this photo of the Young Vic, in appreciation of them putting these two flags on their balcony:

I had my train for Stratford on early afternoon. At Marylebone, a poster of Cymbeline was waiting for me:

Cymbeline's poster, Marylebone station, London

Cymbeline’s poster, Marylebone station, London

It was the first time I was on train in UK, if we don’t consider the one I took sometimes from Gatwick to London, so I was excited but worried at the same time I could take the wrong train or do something wrong changing it at Leamington Spa. But getting to Stratford was quite easy and I arrived around five o’clock.

I found my b&b Stretton House the office of tourism suggested me by email, a lovely house not too far from the station and the theatres. The owner was very welcoming and gave me a map of Stratford, explaining me the best way to get to the RSC theatres and Shakespeare’s famous places. It was good, I should remember not to trust entirely the Google maps I print, it’s better to ask to hotel’s owners!

I took a walk to the theatres and I was immediately taken by the modern/ancient building from far!

rst-from-far

I visited the bookshop of the RSC and bought the two programmes in advance. I also noticed some stuff I would have liked to buy the following days.

The first of the two plays with Oliver Johnstone, King Lear, was taking place that night.

It’s hard to say if I was more curious to see Oliver playing Edgar, a wonderful character, or Iachimo, the sneaky Italian, a fellow countryman of mine then, who tries to seduce the chaste Imogen. I can say he performed both the men in a wonderful way!

But let’s tell things in order.

On the night, I was sitting at my place inside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It was a very good seat at one side of the stage, on the front row. I didn’t dare to take a photo, but the atmosphere was exciting. A full report on the play will be posted there soon. The whole cast was terrific! The RSC always chooses well!

After the show, I wanted to meet Oliver at the stage door to say congratulations to him for the wonderful performance, but also to tell him I was going to see Cymbeline the day after. That because I read the cast speak Italian, French and Latin in the play, so I wanted to see if he could say any comment about it, knowing I was Italian.

He was very nice and asked me from which part of Italy I came. Then he exuberantly explained that Iachimo is from Siena, while I replied I thought he was from Rome (I didn’t remember that detail from the book). I also told him that I wanted to see him playing such opposite characters and he told me that, yes, they are two very different roles to play, but he finds it stimulating.

I thought that Oliver’s performance was very physical and reminded me of a figure from a painting of Caravaggio. I was right, as later, browsing the programme, I found a page mentioning the painter!

caravaggio

I had a great night.


THURSDAY 8 SEPTEMBER

After a delicious English Breakfast, on the morning I decided to visit Shakespeare’s grave first. It was due to pay homage to the Bard!

With my precious map on my hands, I reached the Holy Trinity Church, a beautiful church with original Gothic architecture. Photos were allowed, so I could take several pictures inside and outside. It was a great emotion to me to be there! Here the gallery with the description:

Outside the historical complex, the garden overlooks the Avon river and the view is stunning. You can see the RST tower from far. I took a walk along the river through a passage in the party wall. Definitely, this city is still focused on Shakespeare, as you can see from the gallery (see the pavillion’s photos, for example):

In my walk, I found by chance the famous The Other Place, the RSC mentions often on Twitter and I wanted to visit. I bet that, if I was looking for it on purpose, I wouldn’t have find it so soon! I liked that place. If I only think that inside there rehealsals take place!!

They use the walls as a glorious gallery of the RSC productions, so I couldn’t help taking pictures. You’ll see why:

I also had a delicious cappuccino at the bar.

Then, I continued my tour along the river and around the RST. I had the whole morning.

I took some stuff for my theatre collection at the bookshop and then I came back to the b&b to get ready for the other play, Cymbeline. You can well see why I wanted this calendar…I don’t think I’ll move the page any further, when I’ll find the one with Oppie….

calendar

There, a bad news: my mobile didn’t charge! Gosh. I had just the time to text my friend Chris time and place for our appointment on the evening, before the battery abandoned me.

I run to be at the theatre in time for Cymbeline. This time, I had a seat in front of the stage, first row. I was very curious to see if detractors of the play were right. They weren’t. Apparently we saw a different show. I greatly enjoyed the play, it was dynamic and funny, played not in a classic way. A full report on the play will be posted there soon.

Meeting Oliver at the stage door again, he smiled at me and told he hoped his Italian was okay and looked glad that I thought so. I can’t talk for French people and I didn’t study Latin, but I think that he did well. Actually, he spoke the best Italian in the cast and I told him so. I have to admit I didn’t understand some lines from the others actors during the scenes taking place in Rome and I had to read subtitles in English on screen, oops! But it was just the languages, because I really enjoyed all the performances!

I would have liked to ask Oliver how he manages two different performances day after day and where did he learn Italian and French, but I felt silly and I left him with his acting secrets.

He also asked me when I was going back to Italy and if I planned to see other plays in London. I replied that I had booked for Pride And Prejudice and Groundhog Day, he told me he was hoping to see GDay, too, once in London. Unless he saw the play on one of the last two Sundays, I’m sorry he will be disappointed, as the play ended last Monday, 19 September! I didn’t notice, or maybe I could have told him. What a pity for him, that musical was great!

I also got the occasion to ask for the autograph to the lovely Bethan Cullinane, I told her I loved her performance and that she and Oliver were my favorite in the cast. She said me smiling that they went to the acting school together, so I told her that I knew that last Summer they made together Young Bloods, a RADA play about Waterloo, too.

They both cheered my day up! Cheeky me, I looked for these two actors at the stage door only, as I think they stole the play.

I was in Stratford just for a short holiday, it’s a pity I could see each play only once, I’d need to focus on details! Who knows if I can make the London season at the Barbican, but looks like tickets are selling fast! So I hope that the RSC will edit the two plays on DVD, next year!

I will always regret I didn’t make an effort and didn’t go to Stratford before, to see Oppenheimer at the Swan Theatre! I found Stratford and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre gorgeous and I greatly miss them already!

On the evening, I had an appointment with Chris, an English friend I met through Twitter. We had dinner together at the RST restaurant. It was a lovely way to end the day. Courses were delicious and a pleasure for the eyes.

I found bizzarre the changes that have been made inside the building, as Chris explained me. They left just three seats on the wall to show where the old circle of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre ended. And posters.

After dinner, we walked around to see the city by night. Chris suggested me a shop where I could ask to check my phone in the morning. Pity I couldn’t take photos of Stratford by night, as my camera card was full already and I couldn’t use the phone. The atmosphere outside Shakespeare’s house was magic.


FRIDAY 9 SEPTEMBER

Another lovely English Breakfast. I had my train for London around 5 pm, but I had to renounce to visit to some Stratford places as I planned, for I had to fix my phone problems and I couldn’t leave my luggage at the b&b for more than few hours, as they apologized they had a last-minute commitment on the afternoon. So I took another long walk through the city, but it was nice.

Then I stayed around the RSC theatres and I sat on Ian Richardson’s bench. What a honour!

But I had enough time to visit the RSC’s free exhibition “WELL SAID, Favourite Shakespeare Quotes” inside the RST. Lines by Shakespeare were chosen by actors, like Ayesha Dharker, Hiran Abeysekera and Paapa Essiedu and inspired new artworks made by some artists.

After that, walking around the ground floor, I noticed that big photo Tom Morton-Smith tweeted about some months ago. Looks like at the RSC are still proud of that wonderful performance by John Heffernan! Oppie is still there! I can’t blame them!

I didn’t want to leave the RSC palace too soon, so I decided to have another lovely cappuccino and a slice of cake at the bar. The British now how to prepare them!

rsc-cappuccino-and-cake

Later, I visited the Guild Chapel, another amazing Gothic church in the city. There are some ancient affrescos in need for restoration, so they’re collecting money. I really hope they can make it.

And around the city there still are some amazing buildings of the time of Shakespeare, fortunately the city saved fro the passing of time. Is part of their cultural heritage, no?

I would have liked to stay in Stratford more days, but I had to leave. I took some last photos at the train station.

I had no plays to see in London in the evening, so I enjoyed an episode of Law & Order: UK on TV. It’s always a pleasure to see James Steel on screen!


SATURDAY 10 SEPTEMBER

I started my day going to The Cut again. In my schedule, I didn’t think I could excange my ticket for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic on Wednesday. Oh well, it was also an occasion to do my ritual: walking along the Southwark, which for me is like throwing a coin into the Fontana Di Trevi to get back to Rome!

Waiting for the Old Vic’s box office to open, I went to the bar of the Young Vic, where I know they do a good cappuccino. It was fun, because the barman asked me if I was there for an audition. Haha! I told him that I wished I was! Then he asked me if I was seeing Yarma, but no, unfortunately.

I took my ticket for GDay and then I went to the Southbank. Everytime, I have to go inside the National Theatre for their bookshop, where I bought a copy of The Stage, and then inside the BFI, where I use to visit the exhibition they set on the mezzanine. This time it was “Recent acquisitions to BFI special collection“. I took with me a programme of the incoming Film Festival, too. I wish I could have attended to it.

I was nervous and excited for the afternoon. I was going ot the Open Air Theatre for the first time, to see Pride And Prejudice, but the weather was cloudy, so I feared it could rain. I was right. As I wrote in my report there, I was able to see just few minutes of it, then the staff interrupted the play! I was so disappointed! For the second time in that holiday, I couldn’t see a play I planned to see!! I just took some photos around.

But I took consolation on the evening, as Groundhog Day was indoors and very enjoyable! My report there.


SUNDAY 11 SEPTEMBER

A brief visit to the British Library to buy a present for one of my two brothers, who celebrated his birthday the day after.

And then, on my way back to Italy, sigh. End of another great holiday! Looks always too short to me! Haha!

I hope you liked the gallery, I had to share how beautiful Stratford-Upon-Avon is!

Perhaps this diary matters just to me, really…

I took many other photos, but I posted here just the more interesting.

Bye bye!

the-rsc-by-night

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In praise of Jack Holden actor


NATIONAL THEATRE

I started to follow Jack Holden on Twitter in 2012, on a list first, when I noticed he was playing Albert Narracott in War Horse at the New London Theatre after Luke Treadaway and because he showed interest in WWI.

I didn’t see the 2012 production of War Horse, I had to wait the year after, but the cast was different.

Anyway, the staff of the National Theatre Archive wrote me that a version with Jack as Albert is available to view at their location, so I will go there in my next London holiday to watch it.

I think Jack is playing very interesting roles, of course I started to follow his Twitter account after a short time! And WWI seems to be a regular feature in his career.

In 2014 through his tweets, I saw that Jack was starring in the one-man show Johnny Got His Gun from Dalton Trumbo anti-war novel, on WWI again. He got praises for his performance in reviews and from the audience. I’m curious about that book I heard of several times, I’m going to search for it soon and I will try to imagine how he did play Joe. Must have been challenging being alone on stage every night for weeks!

Johnny-Got-His-Gun-Southwark-Playhouse

The same year, since Jack is also a writer, he wrote Dawn, which was played as rehearsed reading at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden on Tuesday January 28, 2014. The synopsis is very interesting, I hope we get to see it in a theatre one day:

<<In the trenches of World War One, two English boys are bound together by the terrors which surround them. One dawn, whilst their regiment surges forward to their deaths, they run the other way, together. On their hopeless flight for the Channel, shaken and scared, they find the seed of a mutual love. But how can that love bloom when all they have is the bombed-out wilderness and each other?

In the centenary year of the start of World War One, Fine Frenzy Theatre are proud to present a reading of Royal Court Young Writer Jack Holden’s haunting new play.>>


I had my first chance to see him on stage in the play Oppenheimer by Tom Morton-Smith, which was announced by the Royal Shakespeare Company to be staged in Stratford-Upon-Avon and later in London.

The cast looked very promising and, as I said in my report, I got tickets to see the show in London and I totally fell in love with the story and its cast.

Jack was Robert Wilson, one of the young scientists who worked with R.J.Oppenheimer at the atomic bomb. I agree with the britishtheatre.com 5 stars review in thinking that <<Holden is absolutely outstanding; a star on the rise.>> I loved how he talked and moved on stage!

He played one of the most moving scenes, when Wilson tried one last time to prevent the use of the bomb, but, then, I suspected he could be good for comedy, too, for some funny moments he was in, like when he took milk and egg as a remedy for booze. His Wilson will always stay in my heart!


Pity I wasn’t able to see him playing the funny role of Hastings in a quite modern version of She Stoops To Conquer at the Royal Bath Theatre in Bath, he must have been hilarious,

She_Stoops_58

but I booked immediately for A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Play For The Nation at the Barbican in London, (a play I wanted to see on stage from long time) as soon as the cast was announced. I think that Jack is perfect as Lysander! The role requests a good-looking nice actor with a very physical presence, which he is. He goes very well together with the other members of the cast. Dream 2016 will be back to Stratford-Upon-Avon, from where the UK tour started, from June to July, I wish I could see this play there again! I wrote my report there.

Jack Holden as Lysander


Currently, Jack plays Roland Pemble in the BBC Four radio play Home Front, which takes place during the WWI years. Roland is a young photographer who falls in love with the woman who owns the photography shop where he works. It’s a tender and bit of a troubled love story. And then he joins the Army. I really hope he’s back ‘in safe’ in the next season.

Home Front is available to listen to on the BBC Four site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b047qhc2 where there is information on the play and on WWI.

Roland and Lillian

Jack can play so well the romantic hero!


I suggest you watch online a nice short movie called In A Bookshop by Aideen Johnston, where Jack plays Jake Ryan, an ex uni student who works in a publishing house: https://vimeo.com/78006498. The ending is funny, I have the impression maybe something similar happened for real! I find Jake very nice! I can’t say the same about the teacher, haha!

In A Bookshop


Jack has just finished shooting the movie The Levelling with Ellie Kendrick, currently in post-production. He plays James, but we know very little about the movie, yet. IMDb says: <<Hope Dickson Leach has written and is directing the film, which is set in the aftermath of the dramatic flooding in Somerset last year. Kendrick will be a young woman who returns to her family’s dairy farm after the tragic death of her younger brother.>>

So I’m looking forward to it, hoping it will come to Italian cinemas, as Ellie is quite famous here for her role in Game Of Thrones.

From Hope Dickson Leach Twitter account

From Hope Dickson Leach Twitter account

 


I admire Jack Holden as a bright, talented actor! And he’s a very nice young man in person! I met him twice, once after Oppenheimer and once after Midsummer, he was lovely to me!

And, for the record, I got to live a magical “stage moment” with him in both the plays!

During Oppenheimer, ‘Serber’ and ‘Wilson’ pointed at me and applauded me saying: “…and hey, you’ll kill everyone in the room…well done.” when I was sitting in the front row. I’m still blushing thinking about it, but I had fun! Well, they were just playing their lines, I was there by chance! Haha!

At the end of Midsummer, while dancing, ‘Lysander’ smiled and winked at me from the stage. I saluted him back from the front row, again. And that was not part of the play, just him being cheerful and pleased I was seeing the play again that day. What a lovely thing he did!

And is not just that. Jack is also a good human being. In 2010, with a friend, he raised money for Action Aid, with the project Skye is the limit. They reached the highest point of the Isle of Skye, by hitch-hiking from Bristol, with the help of a crowdfunding. They decided to embark on the trip to support ActionAid’s relief efforts in Pakistan and its child sponsorship programme. If you take a look to the nice videos they filmed, they faced a big challenge, but I bet they had fun!

I wish Jack all the best for his career!



LINKS

http://www.jackholden.net/ Jack’s official site

https://twitter.com/1JackHolden/ Jack’s Twitter profile

https://twitter.com/AideenJ Aideen Johnston’s Twitter profile

http://www.theatreworkshop.net/ Workshop on WWI

http://www.somersetlive.co.uk/Skye-s-limit-fundraising-Harry/story-12340646-detail/story.html on Skye is the limit https://twitter.com/skyesthelimit10

http://www.lovetheatre.com/tickets/3794/Johnny-Got-His-Gun

londontheatre1.com/news/17181/interview-with-jack-holden-albert-in-war-horse-at-the-new-london-theatre

https://www.facebook.com/events/287632238050852/ Dawn Rehearsed Reading Facebook event

http://www.tommortonsmith.com/theatre/2014/10/21/oppenheimer

https://bottomdream16.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/it-is-not-enough-to-speak-but-to-speak-true/ interview to Jack

http://www.ifeatures.co.uk/the-levelling1.html The Levelling official site



News of 10 June: photographer Jack McGuire shared a gorgeous new headshot of Jack on Twitter:

Actor: @1JackHolden Represented by @UnitedAgents #Headshots #Actor

Jack McGuire headshot 10June16

Very nice headshot, top notch actor!

McGuire official site: jackmcguireheadshotphotography.com



 

War Horse London is saying goodbye


So today there will be the last two performances for War Horse On Stage London.

It was Morphurgo’s decision to give it a rest, while tours are continuing around the world.

The English production will go on UK tour in 2017, with another cast, I suppose.

I was lucky enough to see it twice, in 2013 and 2015, both at the New London Theatre, but I still regret I haven’t seen all the different cast and productions. Would have been interesting. Let’s hope the National makes some recordings available in streaming or in their archive.

For some hours, old and current cast & creatives are tweeting their “goodbye” to the play.


(direct links)

WarHorseOnStage04

WarHorseOnStage

NT Bookshop1

NT Bookshop2

I confess: me, too!


james-backway

Dominic Hodson

Nada Zakula

Matthew Forbes

MalcolmRidley

JimmyGrimes

RobertEmms

Toby Olié

Alisdair Simpson

JackHolden

WarHorseOnStage02

Matthew Churcher

Markus Schabbing

WarHorseOnStage03

More will follow, as soon as I find them.

What I will see in London next Autumn


Now that the cast lists are updated every day, I’m even more happy to have booked for these plays in London, because of the actors mostly, but also because of the storylines! I’m also glad to see three plays LGBT related.

From 15 to 19 September:

24 October and around:

BAKKHAI: I booked because of Ben Whishaw mostly, but despite I’m more fond of new writings, I’m curious to see this piece from ancient theatre and it will be a pleasure to come back at the Almeida, after “Our Town“, it got a peculiar stage I liked much. And some days ago it was announced that actor Bertie Carvel has joined the cast. I’m liking him as one of the two protagonists in “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” on BBC One, so he’s one more reason to be satisfied for the ticket. Just in time!

HAMLET: first, it’s my second favorite Shakespeare’s play. Then, when it was announced Benedict Cumberbatch as protagonist, I couldn’t miss the occasion to see him on stage, because he’s the British’s national treasure these years and he impressed me in some roles, most of all his modern “Sherlock”. Then as it was announced some days ago, some interesting actors have joined the cast. Ciarán Hinds, a good Irish screen actor, and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who I liked in “The Low Road” at the Royal Court. Then, the wonderful Karl Johnson in the role of Ghost of Hamlet’s father, which makes me happy because I wanted to see him on stage from ages! I’m pleased also the young actor Dan Parr, who played the sweet but bold Charlie Dawlish, one of the “Lucky 13” in “The Crimson Field“, will play Barnardo. With him, I saw two elements of the cast from that wonderful series on stage. I find great the poster with the children.

WAR HORSE: I’m going to see this wonderful play for the second time, courtesy of “War Horse On Stage”, with a new cast! There’s always a good reason to see it. It’s such a beautiful production!

TIPPING THE VELVET: when I read the news on Twitter, I booked immediately for it even if even today the cast hasn’t been announced, yet! Having little hope that Rachael Stirling, Sally Hawkins or Anna Chancellor would reprise three roles which gave them celebrity in the TV series, as someone suggested (despite I’d love it), I think this would work brilliantly on stage and it’s from the same director of Hamlet, Lyndsey Turner, who’s much admired into the London theatreland. Last but not least, finally a play on women in love, with almost all female characters. They should make more productions like this! They’re such teasers: I can’t wait to know who’s in the cast. I hope something great this way comes!

TEDDY FERRARA: several good reasons, again, brought me to buy a ticket. I was lucky to find one because seats are selling fast from yesterday. First, a Twitter friend annunced me the Donmar new season was out and that it would make me happy. In fact, “Oppenheimer” actor Oliver Johnstone, I’m keeping an eye on for some months, is in the cast. I’m glad he got two more stage roles after Oppie (unfortunately I will not able to see him playing Napoleon for RADA Festival) but I’m not surprised! Then, I read the name of Luke Newberry in the list! He was terrific in the TV series “In The Flesh” playing a gay zombie and I’m even more happy to see him on stage for the first time! Then the plot: it’s on some gay lads at college, freely inspired by a sad true story, written by the American playwright Christopher Shinn. I’ve great expectations on it! And finally I’m going to see a play at the Donmar Warehouse!!! I haven’t had the occasion, yet!

EDWARD II: if I’m able, I wanna take an appointment with the “National Theatre Archive” to see this play, featuring the wonderful John Heffernan in the main role, who I greatly appreciated in “Oppenheimer” and these days in “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” as Lascelles. This is also a classic which unfortunately I wasn’t able to see when it was on in London.

I will take notes and I will write my reports on all these plays! Only one takes place in modern days (Teddy Ferrara), the others in old ages.

I haven’t booked my holidays, yet, so who knows if something more will be announced before September comes? And I’m still deciding for other plays announced…

War Horse on Stage public led interview with Michael Morpurgo


Last May, “War Horse on Stage” ran a public led interview with the author of the book Michael Morpurgo, with questions by their social media fans read on to discover his writing inspirations and thoughts on the play: www.warhorseonstage.com/latest/michael-morpurgo-qa/

I find it very interesting and his answers made me want to write down some reflections here on my blog…

 ……….

I regret I never learned to ride, but I always loved horses and tales about them and I think they are noble animals. Morpurgo is right affirming that the relationship between humans and horses can be very deep and worth to be analyzed.

And I enjoy to read interviews by those who work in the showbusiness, because you see their point of view on art and life, plus some aspects of their personality hidden between the lines.

From this interview, Michael Morpurgo seems a nice, clever person.

Nice to read who was the writer’s favorite author when he was growing up and to know that he would have liked to write himself his favorite book, “Treasure Island“. But he’s modest enough to admit he “wouldn’t have written it as well”.

He was also much involved with the stories he wrote, he rode for a bit and knew tales from the First World War from the men of his village, so he could write some of his masterpieces knowing firsthand what really happened.

He was bold enough to give “War Horse” an happy ending, like if the strong friendship between a boy and a horse made a miracle possible. I love this story and I believe it must be great for an actor to play a role in a production! Nice to know that Morpurgo had the occasion to perform on stage as a farmer.

 

It was a great thing that Steven Spielberg made a movie from “War Horse” and, as far as I know, Morpurgo didn’t seem disappointed by the final result. It also got a good cast that gave justice to the characters.

Anyway, having seen both the movie and the play, and despite is hard not to like the movie, I still prefer the play, for some reasons.

Theatre is always something that catches you with fantasy ad creativity. Several artists join together to set up a show, both cast and creatives.

Then, there are the live performances by actors who use their skills to give life to their characters. With very few exceptions, to see live performances is always the best experience for theatergoers, who will keep remember them. I’ll always regret I didn’t see Luke Treadaway originating the role of Albert in the first 2007 production, but from another role he helped to created, I’m quite sure he gave a terrific performance there.

Not that the movie didn’t require efforts in finding the right actors, horses, extras, costumes, historical material, but of course a story on war requests reality on screen, unless you’re shooting a sci-fi film freely inspired by it. It’s easier, in some way.

 

It’s different in a theatre. Forget that they could hardly use real horses on stage for hours. It was a question of bringing pages to reality in a more original way. And with new writings we are seeing amazing shows nowadays!

Before to book my ticket, when I heard about the production for the first time, I was wondering how they were going to work out the problem. Sometimes little animals are brought on stage, but just for few minutes. When I saw the first pictures of the puppets on the web I was astonished! I could never imagine that they would use a horse-shaped frame with actors inside!

The movements of the horses are so natural, because all the parts of the body are moved by puppeteers, there must be a great physical training behind it. I particularly love the detail of the eyes, they look wet and sweet like real. You forget that there are performers inside the horses and moving the goose and the other animals.

They also remind me of the ancient Theatre Of Shadows in some way, an even more concise depiction of situations. As Morpurgo says, Joey on stage “is not a pale imitation but rather a wonderful interpretation of the spirit of horse.

 

I love Joey and Thopthorn, the two horses with a name in the story. It’s a fact their structure is the most complete and actors get on them for real. The other horses are made of a smaller frame and officers who ride them are puppets, as well. They are silent witness of the madness of humanity, but Joey in particular becomes friend with the people he meets. Those people will never be aware of each other, most of them unfortunately die, but they help Joey to survive until the end of the war.

The dark set design with its simplicity put you in the right mood, it creates a dramatic atmosphere like being in war, where everything is dark, empty, misty and desperate. If it was more detailed, like in a movie, you would miss the action at the centre of the stage. You can’t get the same atmosphere inside a cinema even if you see a film in the dark, as well. And the wonderful music and songs fill the air.

 

My very favorite scene is when Joey the foal exits and adult Joey enters galloping in front of the audience called by Albert: it wouldn’t have been so glorious on screen as it is on stage!

My other favorite parts are when Cap. Nicholls dies and he’s brought to the ground by shadows (what a gripping scene, it gives you shivers!), the scenes with the German officer Friedrich Müller and when the German and the British soldiers save Joey from the barbed wire fence. I like that Morpurgo sees all the good characters like equal, like Joey sees them.

And I’m fond of the goose, that looks like one of those ducks with wheels I used to play with when I was a child. It’s exhilarating: each time it tries to enter home, it loses feathers and gives the audience a good laugh and some relief from the saddest scenes!

 

Even the poster of the play is better to me: it could be less epic than the movie poster, but it’s more effective, as we see the tragedy of war and the whole story through Joey’s eyes.

 

“War Horse on Stage” went so far! Now there are productions around the world: U.S., Canada, Germany, Japan, Africa so is more than a typical British tale. It’s universal.

So if I could ask Morpurgo a question or two myself, they would be: “Aren’t you proud that your novel went so far and became universal and that today is performed on stage in other languages? And is not about time to bring it to Italy, too?”

I’m so curious on what his answers would be!