A weekend in London to enjoy a night out with friends meant that extra hour came in very handy!
(photograph from the gallery to be found on the WarHorse website)
We’d heard a great deal about WarHorse. I’d even read the book, though that was rather more years ago than I might admit to ;-) But though we’d muttered about going to see the play in the theatre it took the initiative of some good friends for us to actually make it to a performance.
Oh, how ingenious those set designers are! Set on a wide, very open space of a stage, somehow they evoke the settings which make up the story with the absolute minimum of props, backdrops or anything else to get in the way of the main feature – the horses. There’s a “torn piece of paper” across the top of the stage, where the proscenium arch would be if there were one in that theatre – and on that space are projected drawings taken from a sketchbook (you can see it here) This was a really clever device with a real link into the story – it’ll be fascinating to see how this is translated into the Steven Spielberg film – a rather different sketchbook makes an appearance on the trailer to be found on the website, btw.
Whilst I’m sure the film will be an enormous success, the comparison between the sketchbook in the trailer and the one in the stage production is emblematic of the (necessarily) different approaches. In the film, it appears the story is spelled out in far greater detail and like the drawing in the trailer, little is left to the imagination. On stage, the sketches are exactly that – brief outlines, hurriedly drawn shapes which nonetheless provide sufficient information for the viewer to work out the bigger picture for themselves. The stars of the show – those two large “horses” are clearly not the real thing – and yet, somehow their movements, mannerisms and behaviour are so very well observed and recreated that for a while, they cease to be a framework with three men inside. What’s even more clever is how, with a few simple changes, they age and become battle scarred too.
For me, the simpler, more artful stage show will more than suffice. Every award which has come the National Theatre’s way as a result of this production is well deserved and I’m delighted we got to see it at last!
Today, on the way home, we enjoyed some of the wonderful Autumn colours whilst visiting Hughenden Manor, home of Benjamin Disraeli. Friends had recommended the place to us and though a fine half term Sunday afternoon might not have been the best day to choose to visit, we don’t often find ourselves in that neck of the woods and it was too good an opportunity to miss.
The house is lovely and on very much a human scale. Of course, being Victorian, it’s also rather dark.
And oh my, didn’t they love “stuff”?!
Of course, The Queen herself played more than a walk-on part in the story of this house, having paid the first Royal visit to a private home when she came here to see Disraeli, we were told. Her portrait hangs alongside that of Prince Albert in the Disraelis’ bedroom, each with an authenticated original signature beneath it, too.
I liked the way some of his quotations were shown on the window blinds.
We couldn’t help but smile at this one, paired with the second part in the window opposite.
I also took advantage of one of the National Trust’s new initiatives to remove some of the barriers and involve visitors, by shuffling the cards a little. No time to sit and have a round of whist, sadly.
And no space in that photo for some bon mots from the man himself. It was only when I arrived home and reviewed my photographs that I realised that I have completely missed the quotation.