War Horse puppetry director Matthew Forbes has given an insight into how Joey - the lifesize puppet horse and star of the acclaimed theatre production - is operated as the show is taken on its 10th anniversary tour of the UK.

Natasha Reneaux chatted to the director, who is responsible for bringing Joey to animated life on stage, as the play based on the novel by author Michael Morpurgo arrives at New Victoria Theatre as part of its latest stage run.

Joey may look and sound like a real horse with reviews suggesting it feels like a living beast on stage, but it takes three puppeteers to act out the puppet horse’s role on stage.

The stage production has launched its latest run at Woking where Forces Radio BFBS caught up with Matthew and the puppetry team for a rundown of how the puppet Joey is used to tell the story of how a working farm horse in Devon ends up on the front line of World War One.

When we take a moment to remember the First World War, for many, our thoughts will go to those soldiers who fought for our country, who lost their lives, who survived and returned to their families but we don’t necessarily think about the animals who were conscripted to help with the war effort.

Horses played a major part in the First World War, being vital for Cavalry roles, transporting injured soldiers from the battleground, carrying ammunition and equipment.

They also had to endure the shelling, barbed wire and mud with 75% of the horses that died during the First World War, perishing because of disease and exhaustion.

The theatrical production of War Horse is currently on tour around the UK and shows the hardships of the war, for the soldiers, the families they left behind but also the untold story of the horses that worked alongside the troops.

War Horse Rearing

The story takes us on a moving journey from pre-war 1914 when a young boy called Albert develops a friendship with a foal, Joey. The relationship shows the separation of the two when the Calvary needs horses to send to France. Too young to sign up Albert has to say goodbye to his beloved horse Joey but vows to find him and bring him home safely.

War Horse Puppet

The audience joins Joey as he gets caught in enemy fire, gets captured by the Germans, becomes trapped in No Man’s Land as we see Albert fighting with the Infantry all the time searching for his horse.     

War Horse and Albert

War Horse is staged at Woking until August 18 before it goes on its tour of the rest of the country.

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