Theatre's mane attraction
THE acclaimed stage version of War Horse is coming to Plymouth.
A UK and Ireland tour of the multi-award-winning play will begin at the Theatre Royal in September next year.
The Herald revealed in January that Theatre Royal bosses were in talks to bring the production to the city.
Confirmation came yesterday that the production by the National Theatre, London, would begin a ten-month, nine-venue tour in Plymouth on September 27, 2013.
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Devon author Michael Morpurgo's 1982 story about a World War One farm horse that goes into battle is a global phenomenon across the page, stage and on screen.
The play has been seen by 2.4million people around the world.
A 2011 movie adaptation by Steven Spielberg, filmed partly in Devon, made £115 million worldwide in cinemas and was nominated for six Oscars.
Mr Morpurgo said he was thrilled that the story was "coming home".
He told The Herald: "It is coming full circle. That is a real joy.
"Devon supplied thousands of farm horses to the Army from 1914-18. Like the men who went with them, so many did not come back.
"Much of the story is set in Devon. I first heard about the war horses in Devon – one of the men who served with them told me in my local pub, the Duke of York (Iddesleigh), about his experiences – and the book was written in Devon.
"It is thrilling. The story is coming home."
Securing the opening run at the start of a tour that takes in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Dublin is the latest coup for the Theatre Royal, which has an international reputation for setting up big-budget productions.
There could be more good news to come – the touring version might be "made" in Plymouth, said a senior Theatre Royal manager.
"We're talking to the producers about the possibility of the Theatre Royal being involved with the creation of the set and costumes for the UK tour," said production and technical director David Miller.
National Theatre producer Chris Harper said: "We are delighted that War Horse will soon be touring the UK and visiting Dublin and we are particularly thrilled that the tour opens in Devon, where the play is set. As well as London, New York, a US tour and Australia, War Horse finally comes home."
The story follows farm boy Albert and his beloved horse Joey.
The horse serves on both sides before finding himself alone in no man's land.
Albert, who is too young to enlist, heads to the trenches to find Joey and bring him home.
Mixing life-size puppetry and actors, the play has won four leading West End awards and six New York Tonys, including Best Play, since opening in London in 2007.
The stage production is adapted by Nick Stafford and presented in association with Handspring Puppet Company. Directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, it is close to Mr Morpurgo's book, which has the reader tuned into the horse's thoughts.
Mr Morpurgo added: "The wonderful thing about the stage version is that it is live. It moves audiences in different ways. It is so beautiful and magical."
Cast details will be announced later. Tickets for the Plymouth run, from September 27 to October 12 next year will go on sale to the public next week.
See What's On this Friday for an exclusive interview with War Horse author Michael Morpurgo.