Thomas Dennis, who stars as Albert in the record-breaking production, talks about being part of such an iconic show.
Following eight years in London’s West End, the National Theatre’s production of War Horse is now touring the UK as part of its 10th anniversary tour.
Actor Thomas Dennis, who is currently playing the lead role of Albert, speaks about preparing the role and working with the incredible puppeteers:
For those not familiar with the story, could you tell us a little bit about your character and the journey he embarks on?
At the beginning of the play, Albert is only 14 years old and works full time on his parents’ farm. After his father spends the mortgage money on a young foal, later named Joey, Albert is burdened with the responsibility of looking after the horse. The two become inseparable but the breakout of World War One finds them parted from one another and the rest of the play follows Albert’s constant battle to be reunited with Joey.
The most amazing thing about Albert is his undying hope and belief that Joey is alive and that he will find him so they can be “together forever”.
How did you prepare for your role as Albert?
Albert is definitely one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face so far as an actor. Fortunately, I ride horses in my spare time so I brought a lot of that experience and knowledge to both the character and the show.
I also embarked on a research trip across Northern France and the Western Front, which had me following in the footsteps of Joey and Albert. I believe this show to be a commemoration of all the men, women and horses that gave their lives in the Great War so to see the landscapes and read the names on the gravestones allowed me to connect deeply to the subject matter of the piece.
Lastly, it took me a solid ten weeks of practising every day to finally learn how to owl whistle - which is essential for the role of Albert!
How has playing the part of Albert differed from your other parts on stage?
I consider Albert to be another step forward in my career in terms of difficulty. I feel I have to explore levels of trauma with Albert’s character much more. Everything he experiences builds up to the last scene of the show.
What has it been like to work with the incredible puppets and the production team?
The puppeteers on this show are so incredible, the detail of their work never ceases to amaze me and it enables them to bring our world of animals and warfare to life. Without them the show would not be where it is today.
Why do you think the story of War Horse resonates with audiences so much?
At the heart of the story is a simple relationship of love between a man and his horse. I believe stories of love between people and animals can always be related to by audiences all over the world.
This interview was originally produced for The Bristol Magazine (October 2017).
Book your tickets:
War Horse arrives at Milton Keynes Theatre this month (19th September – 6th October). The show will visit a number of UK venues including the Birmingham Hippodrome (10th October – 3rd November), London National Theatre (8th November – 5th January), Canterbury Marlowe Theatre (27th February – 16th March) and the Stoke-On-Trent Regent Theatre (27th March – 6th April), closing next Spring.
For tickets and information visit www.warhorseonstage.com.
Image: Thomas Dennis in War Horse (photo credit: Birgit & Ralf Brinkhof).