At the end of a successful two-year tour, the National Theatre’s production of War Horse has been performed recently to over 2,500 young people at two specially dedicated performances for state school pupils from the Borough of Brent, taking place in the lead up to Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture 2020.
In November, a performance of the National Theatre’s acclaimed production of War Horse at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre had a special audience made up of more than 1,300 young people from state schools across the Borough of Brent. This performance was introduced by author Michael Morpurgo, who welcomed the young people, saying, “It’s completely wonderful for War Horse to be performed to an auditorium full of young people, many of whom will have never set foot in a theatre before. These are the most important audiences and I shall be sat there right alongside them, only perhaps crying a little more.”
The November performance was attended by primary school-aged pupils, with secondary school pupils attending the evening performance on the 20th. More than 2,500 young people from the Borough of Brent experienced War Horse for a subsidised ticket of £5, with all teachers seeing the production for free.
Both performances and surrounding activity were supported by the National Theatre, John Lyon’s Charity, the leading independent funder for children and young people in North and West London, and Troubadour Trust, which aims to inspire arts in the communities local to Troubadour Theatres.
During the six-week run of the Olivier and Tony-Award-winning play (which ran from mid-October to late-November) the NT, together with the Troubadour Trust, developed a programme of activity that engaged with schools in Brent, as well as families in the local community in the lead up to the borough’s year as London Borough of Culture in 2020. This included professional development events for teachers, working with the creative team on War Horse to build on professional drama expertise, which was delivered in association with the Imperial War Museum. War Horse cast members have also run a series of puppetry workshops for young people, a week-long project with the Brent Youth Theatre and a Community Day for families in Brent. Prior to November’s special matinee, over 100 young people took part in a War Horse Page-to-Stage event, which explored the process of putting Michael Morpurgo’s novel on the stage, discovering the historical context of the play and the skills involved in directing and performing.
Alice King-Farlow, Director of Learning at the National Theatre said, “We are so pleased to be able to offer young people from the Borough of Brent the opportunity to see War Horse this week. This play is not only a beloved and enduring story, but it is also an extraordinary piece of theatre, combining puppetry, music, design and stagecraft seamlessly. It feels particularly pertinent for these young people to be seeing War Horse during Discover! Creative Careers week, as we welcome young people to the National Theatre and to NT performances on tour, to see performances and take part in backstage activity, showcasing the range of backstage and offstage roles needed to bring a production like War Horse to the stage.”
Backed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Discover! Creative Careers Week ran throughout mid-November, with 40,000 young people from around the country aged 11+ invited to take part in events that provided them with a glimpse into the creative industries. Alongside the schools performances of War Horse, the National Theatre welcomed 130 state secondary school students from across London to the South Bank to take part in demonstrations, workshops and hands-on activities. The NT also introduced local primary schools to theatre-making and the backstage world through their Make Theatre Days during the week.
The creative industries are one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy and vital to the lifeblood, identity and cultural output of our country. The World Economic Forum states that by 2020, Creativity will be amongst the top three most important skills looked for by employers. The National Theatre believes that all young people should have the opportunity to experience and participate in drama no matter where they are in the UK, and is committed to supporting schools across the country and to developing teachers’ skills to ensure that the arts, including drama and theatre, remain a vital part of school life and ensure that the pipeline of talent into the creative industries are not diminished. The schools performances in Wembley were an essential part of the War Horse season in Wembley.