national theatre of great britain



adapted for the stage by Lee Hall, based on the Paddy Chayefsky film

National Theatre (GB)

Director: Ivo van Hove

Set and Lighting Designer: Jan Versweyveld

Video Designer: Tal Yarden

Costume Designer: An D’Huys

Music & Sound: Eric Sleichim

Creative Associate: Krystian Lada

Associate Director: Daniel Raggett

Associate Designer: Paul Atkinson

Associate Lighting Designer: Marc Williams

Associate Sound Designer: Alex Twiselton

Associate Video: Christopher Ash

Fight Director: Kev McCurdy

Company Voice Work: Jeannette Nelson

Dialect Coach: Charmian Hoare

Staff Director: Jaz Woodcock-Stewart

War Horse - the definitive guide

Later this evening, London says farewell to War Horse, after a record-breaking run. To mark the occasion (and in case it comes up in a pub quiz) we’ve produced a definitive guide to the show.

The show’s history

  • War Horse received its World Premiere at the National Theatre on 9 October 2007 and played in the Olivier for 92 performances until 14 February 2008 and was seen by over 104,000 people.
  • War Horse returned to the National Theatre for a second run playing from 10 September 2008 until 18 March 2009 for a total of 114 performances and was seen by a further 130,000 people.
  • War Horse transferred to the West End in 2009 with its first performance at the New London Theatre on 28 March 2009. War Horse will have its final performance at the New London Theatre on 12 March 2016 .
  • The New York production of War Horse opened on 14 April 2011 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center and ran until 6 January 2013.
  • In February 2012 War Horse opened at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto, and ran until 6 January 2013.
  • A US tour of War Horse began in Los Angeles on 14 June 2012 visiting cities including San Francisco, Dallas, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago and Seattle, and toured North America until 22 June 2014.  It was followed by a visit to Tokyo, Japan in summer 2014.
  • An Australian production opened at the Melbourne Arts Centre State Theatre on 31 December 2012 and then toured to Sydney and Brisbane.
  • A tour of the UK and Ireland ran from September 2013 until February 2015, visiting Plymouth, Birmingham, Salford, Edinburgh, Southampton, Dublin, Sunderland, Bradford, Cardiff, Salford (again), Stoke-on-Trent and Bristol.
  • In October 2013 a German language production called Gerfärhten opened at the historic Theater des Westens in Berlin, where it ran for a year.
  • In June 2014, a Dutch language production of War Horse premiered in the Netherlands at the Royal Theatre Carré in Amsterdam as part of the Holland Festival.  It toured around the Netherlands (Rotterdam, Breda, Groningen, Apeldoorn, Rotterdam, Heerlan) and then went on to Antwerp in Belgium where it was performed in Flemish from 16 May – 14 June 2015.
  • War Horse toured to South Africa from October 2014 until January 2015, playing in Johannesburg and Cape Town.  
  • A Chinese-language production of War Horse opened in autumn 2015 at the National Theatre of China’s theatre in Beijing followed by a tour including Shanghai and Guangzhou. This collaboration is part of a partnership between the National Theatre of Great Britain and the National Theatre of China.
  • War Horse was broadcast to over 1000 cinemas worldwide by National Theatre Live on 27 February 2014.
  • On 25 October 2012 War Horse celebrated 5 years since its world premiere at the National Theatre. The celebrations at the New London Theatre were attended by an audience including Olympians, Paralympians, actors, sports stars and presenters.  It is now in its eighth year in London.
  • A BBC War Horse Prom inspired by the play and Michael Morpurgo’s novel took place on Sunday 3 August 2014 as part of the centenary commemorations of World War One.  It featured a new suite created by Adrian Sutton from his score for the original production, as well as other music from the period with performers including the Proms Military Wives Choir and Gareth Malone.
  • John Tams performed his song ‘Only Remembered’ from War Horse at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on 9 November 2014.
  • A second UK tour of War Horse will begin in Canterbury in September 2017, and tour to Bristol, Liverpool, Oxford, Brighton, Bradford and Nottingham.

Audience statistics

  • By the time its West End run closes at the New London Theatre this evening, War Horse will have been seen by 2.7 million people in London and over 7 million people worldwide.
  • In February 2011 the 1 millionth patron to see the production in London met with writer Michael Morpurgo and was photographed with puppet horses Joey and Topthorn.
  • The National Theatre Live screening of the West End production in February 2014 was seen by over 350,000 people world-wide – breaking previous UK records for NT Live.
  • War Horse has been seen by The Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Prince William and Prince Harry as well as other famous faces including Michael Caine, Rupert Everett, Ethan Hawke, James Earl Jones, Tommy Lee Jones, Keira Knightley, Annie Lennox, Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, Miranda Richardson, Alan Rickman, Meg Ryan, Will Smith, Steven Spielberg, Hilary Swank, Alec Baldwin, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Susan Sarandon, Sharon Stone, Diana Ross, Diane Keaton, William Shatner, Barbara Walters, Hugh Jackman, Ricki Lake, Kate Winslet, George Lucas, Blythe Danner, Joan Rivers, John McEnroe, Queen Latifah, Martin Sheen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Billy Crystal, Sting, Madonna, Guy Ritchie, Angela Lansbury, Elaine Stritch, Michael Buble, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Martin Clunes, Liza Minnelli, Nicole Scherzinger, Gary Barlow, Sir Bob Geldof, Tom Daley, Philip Schofield, Tana Ramsay, John Hurt, Natalie Gumede, Sir Steve Redgrave, Bill Bailey, Elizabeth Jagger, Greg Rutherford, Mary Berry and Ronnie Wood,
  • Having seen the show at the New London Theatre, Steven Spielberg commissioned a new film adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel, which premiered in January 2012 and starred Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Emily Watson. 

The puppets

  • The puppets in War Horse were created by Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, based in Cape Town.
  • It takes eight months to build a complete set of puppets for War Horse; they are handmade by 14 craftsmen and women.
  • The finished horse puppets weigh approximately 43 kilos for the body, including the puppeteers’ backpacks, and another 7.7 kilos for the head. They are made of cane, leather and tyvec, a material used in book-binding (for the manes and tails). The torso is reinforced with aluminium and able to carry a rider on top.
  • Joey, Topthorn and Joey as a Foal are each operated by three puppeteers - the Head, the Heart and the Hind. The three puppeteers work together to create the character of each horse and to produce the horse noises. 
  • Puppeteers train for eight weeks before they begin performing. Their training includes basic principles of puppetry before they work specifically on creating the horses.
  • War Horse has 23 puppets, including horses Joey and Topthorn, as well as a goose, two swallows and two crows.  


United Kingdom

  • 2007 Evening Standard Award for Set Design - Rae Smith and Handspring Puppet Company
  • 2007 Critics’ Circle Award for Set Design - Rae Smith and Handspring Puppet Company
  • 2007 Laurence Olivier Awards for Set Design - Rae Smith and Handspring Puppet Company
  • 2007 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Theatre Choreographer - Toby Sedgwick
  • 2012 Whatsonstage Best West End Show Award
  • 2015 Mousetrap Award for Best Play

United States

  • 2011 Outer Critics’ Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Play
  • 2011 Outer Critics’ Circle Award for Outstanding Director of a Play - Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris
  • 2011 Outer Critics’ Circle Award Outstanding Lighting Design - Paule Constable
  • 2011 Outer Critics’ Circle Special Achievement Award - Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler
  • 2011 Drama Desk Special Award for Thrilling Stagecraft
  • 2011 World Theatre Award - Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence -Seth Numrich
  • 2011 Audience Awards Favourite Play
  • 2011 Drama League Awards - Distinguished Production of a Play
  • 2011 Special Tony Award - Handspring Puppet Company
  • 2011 Tony Award - Best Play
  • 2011 Tony Award for Best Director of a Play - Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris
  • 2011 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play - Rae Smith
  • 2011 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Play - Paule Constable
  • 2011 Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Play - Christopher Shutt

South Africa

  • Fleur du Cap Award for Best Puppetry Design


  • 2012 Toronto Theatre Critics Awards Best Design - The creative team of War Horse
  • 2012 Toronto Dora Awards Outstanding Costume Design - Rae Smith, Adrian Kohler with Basil Jones for Handspring Puppet Company for War Horse
  • 2012 Toronto Dora Awards Outstanding Choreography - Toby Sedgwick for War Horse
  • 2012 Toronto Dora Awards Audience Choice Award - War Horse

US Tour

  • 2012 Best Presented Production - LA Ovation Awards

General information

  • War Horse runs for approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes including one interval
  • Suitable for 10 years plus
  • Over 950 people have been employed world-wide on War Horse

So, there you go. Everything you could want to know about War Horse. Now, there’s just one thing left for Joey to do: say goodbye to London.

Here’s the successful shot of me and Billie! From after the July 30 matinee performance. It looks sort of deceptively like there is a third party holding the camera, but it is indeed a selfie. How trendy.

I managed to behave fractionally less starstruck with her than with Catherine Tate, which is to say I did not immediately profess my love. Instead I went completely the opposite direction and failed to even say, like, “the show was great”, which would have been the normal human thing to say. Instead I said things like “this is the wrong camera” when she posed with another girl and turned to face me (thinking, I assume, that the girl and I were together) and “that’s not my pen” when she tried to hand me the sharpie she’d been using. IKR, I am an inspiration.