War Horse creator reveals Queen’s love for Joey as novel celebrates 40 years

War Horse creator reveals Queen’s love for Joey as novel celebrates 40 years

The Queen meets the War Horse doll (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Archive)

The Queen meets the War Horse doll (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Archive)

The creator of War Horse has revealed the late Queen’s love for the play’s protagonist as the novel celebrates 40 years since its publication next month.

Sir Michael Morpurgo published the classic children’s book in 1982. It is set during the outbreak of the First World War and documents the extraordinary friendship between a young boy named Albert and his horse Joey.

Adapted for the stage, it premiered at the National Theater in 2007, later became a staple of London’s West End for eight years, and in 2011 was released on the big screen in a film directed by Steven Spielberg.

To mark the milestone anniversary of the best-selling novel, a special concert will premiere at the Chelsea History Festival on September 22 before embarking on a national tour in 2023.

Sir Michael will read an abridged version of his beloved story accompanied by songs and music performed by Ben Murray, an original singer from the National Theater production.

The author said: “For many it will be the echo of the book, of the First World War, of horses and men, for others it will be a concert full of memories of a wonderful and iconic theater performance.

“And it is so right that these concerts should begin in the chapel of The Royal Hospital Chelsea, home to so many old soldiers, and at the Chelsea History Festival too.”

Sir Michael also recalled how the character of Joey, who is portrayed in the play using real horse puppets, was a “huge favourite” of the late monarch, who had a known love of horses.

He said that after she came to see the play she was “so impressed” that she invited the horse puppet to the audience at Windsor Castle.

One of the piece’s original singers, Murray said what makes this concert unique is “the level of intimacy it offers”.

“Rarely do you get to hear such a legendary author tell his story in his own way, in his own voice and in such a beautiful setting,” he added.

“The show is normally presented by 35 actors and puppeteers, not to mention a huge orchestral backing. This concert gives people the chance to hear the music and song as it would have been sung during the war, and to hear the story from the man who wrote it.

“I like to think of the concert as real fireside storytelling, but with all the drama of the incredible events that took place all those years ago.”

To celebrate the 40-year milestone, Farshore will also publish an anniversary edition on October 13 with a new photographic cover by fine art photographer Nine Francois with illustrations by war and reportage artist George Butler.

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