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War Horse - National Theatre Live at Nova Cinema

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by Ruth Henwood (subscribe)
I am a mum of two and Primary School teacher whose aim is to never be home during the midday movie. I believe that I am only ever a car trip away from an adventure.
Event: -
The War Horse Gallops from the Stage and onto the Screen
For many people the idea of seeing a live production at the National Theatre situated on London's Southbank is high on their bucket list. I know seeing live theatre anywhere in the world tops mine, but to see it in the UK for some reason makes it all the more exciting. The West End just seems so appealing and iconic. However, unless you live in Great Britain it may be a dream that takes time to flourish and come to fruition. Thankfully the wonderful people at the National Theatre understand this and have come up with a fantastic way to bring the theatre to you, regardless of where you live.

This groundbreaking initiative is known as National Theatre Live and it aims to broadcast productions straight from the National stages into the cinemas of 22 countries worldwide creating a real and surreal experience all in one. This not only makes theatre more accessible to those who may not have the ability to attend a live performance in London, but it also cements the theatre nationally and internationally.

The National Theatre Presents War Horse


So how does it all work and can live theatre cross over onto a cinema screen? These are the questions that plagued me before, during and after watching the acclaimed and Tony Award winning production of the War Horse at the Nova cinema in Carlton. This international smash hit was first performed in 2007 at the National theatre and captured the imagination and hearts of four million people around the world. Crowds have wept and embraced the characters and have held them close as one does a family member or dear friend.

This stage adaptation of the novel by Michael Morpurgos takes audiences on a journey starting in the fields of rural Devon right down into the frightening trenches of the First World War. Filled with songs and music that stir emotions within you, this is a powerful and magical drama. At the heart of this phenomena is of course the life sized puppets created by the Handspring Puppet Company, who bring the horses to life in a most amazing and thrilling way. You will be spellbound by their grace, speed and the realism of every gallop, twitch and flick of the tail.

Having invested a lot of money into this new initiative, the National Theatre have been able to create an experience that is of the highest quality and bring that to the audiences sitting back in their cinema chairs. They use a host of strategically placed cameras positioned in the most opportune areas around the stage giving everyone the best seat in the house. This even allows for close up shots of the actors faces, something that one does not get sitting in a live audience. It does however mean that you lose the ability to choose where to look, you have to look at where the camera guides you and in my opinion a close up does not necessary always work as it can lose the characters context within the stage parameters.

The National Theatre Presesnts War Horse
The War Horse merges stage and screen


As I watched the large screen I did think how amazing it all was and how incredible that I was watching this production simultaneously with tens of thousands of other people from all walks of life and from all over the globe. I was inspired by the doors that National Theatre Live have opened and how no one has to ever miss out on a performance again be that due to financial or time issues or simply because tickets have sold out. Now that the theatre has crossed over onto a cinema screen and can be beamed live, nationally and internationally it can target new audiences and bring the experience of a live show to a broader community. Anything that can do that is a winner in my mind.

I can't however say that I was as emotionally engrossed as I was when I watched War Horse as a movie. I had howled uncontrollably and slightly embarrassingly back then but I did not have the same connections to the characters or the story line watching the live show being broadcast. I don't know if it was because I couldn't see the entire stage or because the close ups were unnerving or maybe simply because it was a new and unusual experience. Whatever it was my friend agreed with me. There was something lost in the translation. However it is definitely worth trying for yourself and seeing how you adjust to the merging of cinema and live theatre. I nearly feel like I need to join a discussion group to talk about it and to hear others opinions in order to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of this new art form.
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*Ruth Henwood was invited as a guest
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Why? To see the National Theatres production of the War Horse.
When: Check website or newspapers for session times
Phone: Nova Cinema: 9347 5331
Where: Nova Cinema 380 Lygon St, Carlton
Cost: Cinema tickets are a lot more affordable than theatre tickets
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