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All Quiet on the West-End Front

By William Rycroft

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Go behind the scenes of the National Theatre’s production of War Horse.

Publication date: Summer 2018
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About the book

War Horse is the most successful show in the National Theatre’s history. After two seasons at the NT it transferred to London’s West End and it was here that William Rycroft joined the company for what he thought would be six months. Four and a half years later he took his final bow having seen the show become a global smash-hit, spawning productions on Broadway, in Australia, China and other countries as it toured the world. Royal visits, glamorous guests, a Hollywood film adaptation from Steven Spielberg and a live broadcast to millions across the globe all followed too. Amidst all this, a company of over 30 actors trooped out on stage each night, 8 shows a week, in front of a thousand people and told that story as if it was the first time.

What does it feel like to perform in front of the Queen? Or Steven Spielberg? Or your celebrity crush? How do you keep sane performing the same show night after for night, more than 1,700 times? What do you learn about yourself as an actor in such a demanding show? What do you learn about yourself as a person on something so all-consuming? This behind-the-scenes look at a theatrical phenomenon tells us plenty about theatre but just as much about friendship, family and working together.

Those that saw the show may be surprised to discover some of the antics that went on whilst they watched. Those that didn’t will learn that there are seven different ways to cry, why actors need to play, and how it feels to be in a play about the First World War for longer than the actual war itself! Is it weird to watch Benedict Cumberbatch say your lines on the silver screen? Do you still get nervous after so long? How do you move on after such a unique experience? Step backstage for a unique view on the story of a boy and his horse during the Great War.

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