We recently went to see an ‘as live’ showing of the play of Michael Morpurgo’s ‘War Horse’. For those of you who don’t know, the National Theatre Live is a scheme that broadcasts real-time performances of National Theatre productions to cinemas worldwide. The ‘as live’ extension is when those broadcasts (or films) are replayed at times after the live performance.
We very much enjoy going to the theatre, but when the show that we want to see is in London and we want to go en famille, it can be a very expensive pastime. For this reason we jumped at the chance of seeing an as live broadcast of ‘War Horse’ in our local cinema. We didn't know quite what to expect – would it be like being at the theatre or more like a standard cinema experience? Well, there was some attempt at making it seem like you were at the theatre – the cinema screen showed the audience and the speaker system played the sounds of the audience coming from the theatre auditorium before the performance started – but in fact, it really was just like being at the cinema. The view was not straight on to the stage, rather there were a number of different cameras and the view cut between these, much like watching a film. This worked well and must have been difficult to do technically, given the issue of having to work round the audience.
However, what I really enjoyed was the story. I haven’t read any of Michael Morpurgo’s novels before (although my kids have), assuming that they were aimed squarely at children only. ‘War Horse’ tells the story of (aspects of) the First World War through the experience of the horses who were put to work on the battlefield, and it resonates on many levels, highlighting the futility of war, the desperation of those caught up in it, and the effect that war can have on people’s sanity. All are issues very much worthy of adult attention. ‘War Horse’, rather to my surprise, is now on my to read pile.