WarHorse com­ing back to Bei­jing

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By CHEN­NAN

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”.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

WarHorse, a Sino-UK co­pro­duc­tion, will be staged in Bei­jing this sum­mer.

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