Chinese theatergoers can catch the award-winning British play War Horse on domestic stages this fall.
As part of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange, Britain’s National Theatre Live, known as NT Live, is collaborating with the National Theater of China to bring more productions to China with the support of the British Council.
The remake and premiere of War Horse marks the first collaboration between the two theater giants. The Chinese production of War Horse debuted on Sept. 4.
The puppet-powered play was based on a best-selling 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo. This Tony Award-winning musical adaptation has been hailed as “he most moving and spectacular play in London.”
The play is about the quirky and dramatic experiences of a young boy named Albert and his beloved farm horse. Instead of telling the story from Albert’s perspective, the book is narrated by the stallion, Joey.
Using life-like and life-sized horse puppets, the theatrical adaption leads spectators into a world that is alternately idyllic and horrific. Following the clip-clop of Joey, audiences journey from the peaceful countryside of England to the brutal battlefields of France during World War I.
Once staged at the National Theatre in London, the play has been tremendously successful and adapted into German and Dutch. So far, it has been performed more than 3,000 times and watched by 5 million people worldwide.
The scheduled Chinese production will mark the first time that the play has been staged in Asia, following a wider arts and culture co-production agreement between Britain and China.
It has taken one and a half year for the West End show to be adapted into Chinese. Director Alex Simms said there were numerous difficulties that hindered the Chinese translation.
“We found out the problem here was general knowledge of Europe. You know, China wasn’t familiar with Europe, the French language and the German language. But working with the Chinese directing team and the translator, we managed to find Chinese idioms to fill in where something was colloquially English or French or German.”
Puppet director Liu Xiaoyi spoke about the puppets used in the show. “We use life-sized animal puppets, although we also have hand puppets. The horse puppet needs three people working together to control it, which is not easy. It’s really difficult for three people to control one horse.”
The Chinese version of War Horse will be staged in other Chinese cities including Shanghai and Guangzhou.