Global Creatures, creators of King Kong, How to Train Your Dragon, Walking with Dinosaurs, and Strictly Ballroom, have announced that they will be bringing the multiple Tony® and Olivier Award-winning War Horse to Melbourne in late 2012 in association with The National Theatre of Great Britain and the Arts Centre.

Photo: Simon Annand

In an ongoing scuffle between Melbourne and Sydney (is everyone else as sick of it as I am?) Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said of the show's announcement: “Melbourne’s and Victoria’s reputation as a world centre for theatre will be further enhanced by the War Horse partnership between the Victorian Major Events Company, the Arts Centre, Australian producers Global Creatures and the National Theatre.

“Productions such as War Horse bring jobs and investment and help to reinforce Melbourne’s status as one of the world’s most liveable cities… It is a great honour for Melbourne to be chosen by the UK’s National Theatre to host the Australian premiere season of what is from all accounts a truly impressive theatre production.

“Melbourne is the best place to enjoy this award-winning and highly innovative production and I am sure many Victorians and visitors will flock to Melbourne’s Arts Centre to relish its delights."

War Horse tells the tale of "Joey," young Albert Narracott's beloved horse, who is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France during World War I. Joey serves in the British and German armies, befriends "Topthorn" (another army horse), and gets caught up in enemy fire. Death, disease, and fate then take him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before being left alone in No Man's Land. Throughout the war Albert cannot forget Joey, and, still not old enough to enlist in the army, he embarks on a dangerous mission to find and bring him back to Devon.

The real stars of the show are the striking, life-size horse puppets created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company that can be seen in the video below. Sturdy enough to be ridden by the actors, these breathing, galloping horses are constructed using steel, leather, and aircraft cabling that house two puppeteers, each bearing the weight of not only the puppet (30-40 kilos) but also the the rider who is usually between 60 and 70 kilos.

Chris Harper, Producer of the National Theatre of Great Britain, said “War Horse is a life affirming story about friendship, courage and family, which appeals to all ages. This is a production that brings the family together, we get people coming back again and again, and they always have the same reaction. It awakens something in you.”

Carmen Pavlovic, CEO of Global Creatures, believes that Joey's tale will speak powerfully to Australian audiences: “The ANZAC spirit is deeply entrenched in the Australian ethos. We expect War Horse to have a great resonance in this country not only because of our connection to World War I but because themes of the land, loss and the ultimate triumph of friendship have a special place in the Australian psyche. We are proud to be bringing this highly acclaimed show to Australia in a co-production with the National Theatre.”

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