“Extraordinary” is Michael Morpurgo’s description of the National Theatre’s new stage adaptation of his 1982 children’s novel. The play - in which the horses and selected other characters are brought to life by life-sized puppets - received its world premiere last night (17 October 2007, previews from 9 October) at the NT Olivier, where it runs in rep over the Christmas season.

In War Horse, young Albert's beloved horse Joey is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France during the First World War. He's soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man's land. However, Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist, the boy embarks on a treacherous mission to find the horse and bring him home.

War Horse’s puppets are created by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler for South African puppet company Handspring. Suitable for over 12s, the production is co-directed by NT associates Marianne Elliott and Tom Smith and designed by Rae Smith, with lighting by Paule Constable, movement by Toby Sedgwick and music by Adrian Sutton.

The 26-strong, multi-tasking company features Luke Treadaway (as Albert), Angus Wright, Jamie Ballard, Alan Williams, Paul Chequer, Thusitha Jayasundera and Tim van Eyken.

Michael Morpurgo is the author of more than 100 children’s novels. His other novels that have been successfully adapted for the stage include Why the Whales Came and, also set in the First World War, Private Peaceful, which previously starred Paul Chequer, now in the War Horse cast.

TO VIEW THE WAR HORSE FIRST NIGHT TV FOOTAGE, JUST CLICK ON THE "PLAY" ARROW > BUTTON TO THE LEFT OF THE TV SCREEN BELOW.

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For Whatsonstage.com TV, we were on hand for the War Horse curtain call and post-performance drinks at the National Theatre. Amongst our TV interviewees are cast members Luke Treadaway, Paul Chequer, Finn Caldwell and Emily Mytton, composer Adrian Sutton and author of the original novel, and former children’s laureate, Michael Morpurgo.

- by Terri Paddock