‘War Horse’ Through the Playwright’s Eyes

Nick Stafford

War Horse is a book that was adapted into a play by Nick Stafford. The book was written by Michael Morpurgo. It was first published in Great Britain by Kaye & Ward in 1982. The story recounts the experiences of Joey, a horse purchased by the Army for service in World War I in France and the attempts of young Albert, his previous owner, to bring him safely home. It formed the basis of both the award winning play in 2007 and the acclaimed film in 2011.

After reading the book, Nick Stafford felt compelled to turn the beautiful story into a play, hoping that it translate well onto stage. He said, regarding War Horse, “I had [previously] written theatre that involved puppets. I adapted The Snow Queen for the Young Vic a few years ago and we used puppets. War Horse was different though in the sense that we didn’t know what the horses would ultimately be capable of – and one of them was the central character. Would Joey be able to act?” Through the incredible work of the Handspring Puppet Company, the people and puppet playing Joey brought to life like many audiences had never seen before, Stafford had nothing to worry about!

His adaptation was a major success, which garnered him a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Best New Play in 2008, and the Tony Award for Best Play in 2011. When asked why he thought the show was so successful, Stafford said, “I wish I knew why War Horse is so successful. I’d repeat it! At [the] bottom, it’s a good story, told well – no mystery there. So that’s something we can all aspire to.”

Stafford had been writing plays since 1987, but none as commercially successful as War Horse, and has not written one since then. He has tried his hand at writing novel and published Armisice in 2009, which is the story of two people coping with consequences of war during WWI. Through many of his works, he has the common thread of World War I. He feels an affinity with stories from World War One from growing up in England where there are memorials everywhere, and there was a picture of his grandfather in his uniform on the wall of his home.

When asked why he writes so much on the subject, he said, “I’m trying to wean myself off it, to be honest – except I keep on reading about aspects of it I’ve never known before. I feel like I have a reservoir of knowledge that I top up with specific research now and again.” Write what you know and love, right? And that’s what Stafford loves; writing! He says he’ll never stop. “Oh yes. It’s never going to stop, even if it’s reduced (again) to scratchings on flat stones.”







Works Cited

Cathy. “Nick Stafford: Playwright.” Ideas Tap. N.p., 09 Dec. 2011. Web.

“News: Rose Bruford College would like to congratulate all those involved in War Horse”. Rose

Bruford College. 2011-06-13.


Thwaite, Mark. “Nick Stafford Interview.” Quercus. N.p., 20 Sept. 2010. Web.


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