WarHorse coming back to Beijing
The Chinese version of the drama War Horse will return to Beijing from Friday to Aug 14.
A collaboration between UK’s National Theatre and the National Theater of China, the hit stage production was first performed in Beijing last fall and then toured around China, going to Shanghai, Guangzhou and Tianjin.
Staged nearly 200 times and attracting more than 200,000 viewers, the production has been acclaimed as a phenomenon by critics and audiences.
Zhou Yuyuan, president of the National Theater of China, says the production will celebrate its 200th show in Beijing this summer.
“The show caters to people of different ages and is one of the most well-received productions,” says Zhou.
Besides theater stages, the Chinese version of the drama was staged as part of the closing ceremony of the “Year of China” in South Africa in December 2015 and was featured at CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala, one of the most watched TV shows in the country.
“With War Horse, we are not simply coproducing a play. By working with the National Theater of Britain for around three years, we have learned a great deal about staging techniques, theater management and actor training,” says Zhou.
Based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel, War Horse has proved to be the British theater’s most successful play.
It was first performed by the National Theatre at the Olivier Theatre in London in 2007 and had a seven-year run in the West End, toured 10 countries and was seen by more than 7 million people in the world.
The Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg turned the World War I story about an English farm boy Albert and his beloved horse Joey into a movie of the same title in 2011. It became a box-office success and was nominated for six Oscars, including best picture.
Li Dong, a producer with the National Theater of China, says he first watched the play at the West End in August 2011 and was so impressed that he decided to bring it to China.
One of the biggest challenges for anyone putting on the play is coming to grips with the life-size horse puppet created for it by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa. It takes three actors to manipulate the 2.4-meter-tall horse, weighing 54 kilograms.
At performances in Beijing last year, many schoolchildren watched the drama and went backstage to find out about the production, Zhou says.
This summer, more children will be invited to join in the training of puppeteers, who manipulate the “horses”.
WarHorse, a Sino-UK coproduction, will be staged in Beijing this summer.