War Horse is enjoying a return to The Lowry after a successful run last year when it made the theatre its home over the festive months and into January 2014.
The National Theatre’s multi-award-winning production will be at the MediaCity venue until 20 September giving those who missed it the first time a second chance to catch it whilst it is in town.
War Horse has become the best-selling show in the venue’s 13 year history along with being seen by over 4 million people world-wide, including some famous faces such as Madonna, Will Smith and Her Majesty The Queen.
Set at the outbreak of World War One, War Horse tells the story of Albert and his beloved horse Joey.
The 34 strong War Horse cast includes 11 actors from the North West, one of which is Oldham-born Karen Henthorn, who takes on the role of Rose Narracott. Manchester’s Finest caught up with the actress, better known as Teresa Bryant in Coronation Street, to find out what it was like to be back on home turf again.
KH: It is great to be back. The last seven months since we were last here has gone so quickly and it’s amazing to be returning. The Manchester audience is so warm and smiley and of course I live in Manchester so it’s great to be home and off the road for a little while.
MF: There’s a lot of local actors in this production of War Horse, what’s it like working together?
KH: There’s 11 Northerners in the cast and it’s fantastic. You feel that War Horse has a Northern down to earth nature anyway as it is set in the countryside with working-class people who get their hands dirty. So, to have those characters played by real Northerners it seems to have enhanced the production. Plus what was great was that we all knew each other before we started the job, which gave a good company feel and work ethic. Considering we have worked together on the road for 10 months we have had no squabbles we’ve just got on with it and knuckled down to entertain and tell a story. It’s really hard work but we love it as we get amazing feedback from the audience and standing ovations every night which makes it all worth it.
MF: Now you’ve been playing this second run at The Lowry since July and we did have some very warm weather conditions, how did that effect the show?
KH: We felt really sorry for the people at the top of the theatre, as that’s where all the lights are so it must be have been extremely hot. It was quite unbearable backstage as we couldn’t have the air conditioning on as it would affect all the dry ice we have in the performance. The dry ice is used for the mist in the scenes so it wouldn’t have the same atmosphere for the audience or the actors without it. Also we wear woollen costumes that are layered up for all the quick changes so at times could be wearing maybe 2 or 3 costumes at once. We just think of the positives and how much weight we are going to lose!
MF: The horse puppets in the show are incredible and huge. It must be a lot of weight for the puppeteers to carry around during the show?
KH: It’s 10 stone without a rider so if you think the rider on top adds potentially another 12 stone to that that’s 22 stone that 3 men are carrying throughout the show.
MF: Do you find it as easy as the audience to forget we are watching puppets when we look at Joey the horse and the other animals?
KH: Definitely! Obviously in rehearsals when they were starting out a fresh it felt like we were watching puppeteers but as their skills developed our belief developed. Now, working onstage with Joey, we don’t even look at the puppeteers - even the head puppeteer. It’s all about Joey all the time. We are the fourth puppeteers so if we don’t respond as if they are real then the audience won’t believe either.
MF: What’s it like playing the role of Albert’s Mum, Rose?
KH: It’s lovely. There’s a lot of pathos in the role as she is the mainstay of the family, but there’s also humour. Rose is determined, focused, loving and I just love playing Rose. It’s hard playing the same role for 10 months and keeping it fresh and that’s something I try all the time. I try and look for the truth in the emotions I display onstage, for example when I read the letter from my son from the war I think of my Mum who is 76 and how much I love her and then everything flows naturally. After playing the role for such a long time the key is to try and listen every night and not go into automatic pilot, which is something we are mindful to do as a cast. I’m always looking for different ways to keep it fresh for the audience and us.
MF: Why do you think it is that War Horse has been so popular with people?
KH: I think because there are so many wars on at the moment that people in the audience may know family or friends who are fighting and so can relate to the subject matter. Loss and love we have all experienced and it is with us all the time now, so War Horse managed to touch the heart of everyone.
To book War Horse tickets visit www.thelowry.com or ring the box office on 0843 208 6000.
Kids go free on selected dates in August.