Week 16: “The Horse’s Mouth: Staging Morpurgo’s ‘War Horse'”

“The Horse’s Mouth,” by Mervyn Millar, recounts the development of “War Horse” for the stage. It might be too technical for the general reader, but it would be interesting for any fan of the book who’s curious about how it got turned into a play. Among other parts of the process, the director, playwright et al. visited farm horses in Devon, where Joey’s story begins, and the London home of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, where training still has much in common with its WWI practices.


King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery parade, London. Photo at Flickr from kenjonbro.

The book also is notable for what the various members of the theatrical team had to say about the war. Most admitted they didn’t know much about it when they began, beyond what they learned at school (which in the U.S. would be nothing).

And here’s Michael Morpurgo on what played into his inspiration to write the book in the first place:

“Most of us grow up with the First World War poets. Well, the fact is this: grand and wonderful as some of these poems are, most of them were written by officers, who came to the war with a certain class, a certain idea, a certain notion. The people I was talking to in (the Devon town of ) Iddesleigh were, if you like, the fighting men. People who came to the war straight, without verses, and thinking, and philosophy and literature to either help or hinder them: they came to it straight. And I had always wondered, with my listening to them, and my reading of history, how it was that these men did go over the top, because people told them to do it.”
And here’s Joey in the trailer for the Mirvish Productions’ “War Horse” in Toronto:

3 thoughts on “Week 16: “The Horse’s Mouth: Staging Morpurgo’s ‘War Horse'”

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