Michael Morpurgo hopes War Horse will help heal Germany's wounds
Westcountry author Michael Morpurgo has written of his hope that the critically-acclaimed theatre production of his novel War Horse can bring international audiences closer together.
Last week, hundreds of people gathered in the village of Iddesleigh, in West Devon, as the life-sized puppet of Joey, and his fictional owner Albert, return to the community that inspired the story.
The theatre team brought the ‘horse’ to the village ahead of the start of their UK tour, which begins in Devon at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal on September 27.
The show, which also opens in Berlin this month and has already proved a hit in London, Australia and the United States, sold out months ago.
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As the opening night nears, Mr Morpurgo said he would be a “happy man” if the production played a “small part” in “growing respect between the nations” and the “determination to forge reconciliation and understanding”.
“I have lived all my life in a postwar world, post both world wars, though many consider them to be in effect one war with a 20-year interruption,” he wrote in The Telegraph.
“My childhood was lived amongst the ruins of bombed out London. As I grew up I heard stories of pride, of heroism and cruelty, of grief and loss.
“I played war games in amongst the ruins, shot Germans by the hundred, until I began to realise that in war there is suffering and loss on both sides, that anger lives on through grief, and that it is anger that leads so often to the next war.
“I learned also that it is rare for war to solve anything, and that we go to war because words and common sense and human kindness and mutual respect have failed us.
“In Europe, we have at long last, I hope, learned this, and at a terrible cost. Now we argue about currency, and sausages, and agriculture, and fishing and football. The frontiers have gone. Our children and our grandchildren are hardly aware they are there.
“The bitterness and the anger has passed and we try to find common cause whenever we can, and when we can’t, we agree to disagree.
“I go often to Ypres to research my stories, and whenever I do I make a point of visiting the war cemeteries.
“I am struck always by how many British people are there, Australians too, and Canadians, and New Zealanders, but how very few Germans are there. Yet their fathers and sons, their brothers and uncles, who left their homes a hundred years ago died in even greater numbers than ours.
“Their boys went to war for much the same reasons ours did, patriotism, pride, for adventure, because they were told to.
“Their deaths were as terrible, the sense of loss at home just as grievous. Yet it would seem that even now the shadow of the Hitler war does not allow them to remember, as we do, those who died in the First World War.
“The last of the old soldiers, theirs and ours, of the First World War, are now all gone. There are fewer every year who knew and loved them. The hurt and anger, the grieving and the guilt is passing.
“In their place is a growing respect between the nations, and a determination to forge reconciliation and understanding. If the play of War Horse, and the book and the film too, can play a small part in this new beginning, then I shall be a happy man.”