PICTURES: Happy homecoming for Joey the War Horse
Fiction came to life on the streets of a rural village when the heroes of a now internationally acclaimed story returned home – in scenes similar to the storyline.
Hundreds of people gathered to watch the life-sized puppet of Joey, and his fictional owner Albert, from the critically-acclaimed theatre production of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, return to the village that inspired the story.
The theatre team that brings the story to life on stage brought their 'horse' Joey to Iddesleigh in West Devon yesterday ahead of the start of their UK tour, which begins in Devon at Plymouth's Theatre Royal on September 27.
Such is the show's popularity that it sold out months ago but crowds were given a glimpse in the West Devon sunshine yesterday.
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Dozens of children were among those who greeted Joey from the West End stage adaptation of Morpurgo's novel.
"To bring Joey home is the culmination of everything we've done over the past 30 years since I wrote the book," said Mr Morpurgo, who was there to see the triumph.
"The lives behind the story are wrapped up in this village and it's wonderful to have this celebration today."
War Horse tells the story of a young boy called Albert and his horse who serve on the front line in the First World War.
The story has also been turned into a major Hollywood movie directed by Steven Spielberg. He shot some of it on location in Devon, using some spectacular Dartmoor backdrops to illustrate the film.
Chris Harper, producer of the National Theatre show now in its sixth year, said: "War Horse has been a phenomenal success all over the world, and it's absolutely right to come home."
The puppet horse emerged from the Duke of York pub – Mr Morpurgo's local where he met the war veterans who had been in the Devon Yeomanry, one of whom had fought in the war aged 17, and who inspired his novel.
"I was very touched and very upset by what he told me," Mr Morpurgo said.
Pupils from nearby Hatherleigh Primary School were given a reading from the story on the village green before the crowd walked to the village war memorial.
Mayor of Hatherleigh, Graham Alford said: "War Horse has definitely put this village on the map. Today is a beautiful day to trace the story back to its beginning."