Photo Flash: WAR HORSE Author Michael Morpurgo & 'Joey' Visit Ypres
Best-selling author Michael Morpurgo, made a special visit to Ypres yesterday, Monday 22 December, 2014, accompanied by Joey, the life-size puppet horse and central character of the National Theatre's production of War Horse. Adapted for the stage from his novel in 2007, War Horse is now in its sixth year in London, on tour in Holland and will make its Belgian premiere in Antwerp in 2015.
This visit represented a significant homecoming for Michael Morpurgo, as Flanders Fields near Ypres is part of the historic backdrop for his moving story of War Horse. Michael was proud to bring Joey to two significant commemorative locations in Ypres on 22 December, to mark the Centenary of the First World War and the famous Christmas Truce: Menin Gate Memorial followed by the In Flanders Fields Museum. After this, Michael and Joey headed to a field outside Dranouter where there was much cavalry action during the First World War.
Michael Morpurgo said: 'My Belgian roots are deep. My Grandfather, Emile Cammaerts, was a great Belgian poet of the First World War, his patriotic poems Le Drapeau Belge and Carillons, both set to music by the great English composer, Edward Elgar. My mother was named after a little hamlet, called de Kippe, near Ypres, the first place in Belgium to be retaken by Belgian soldiers. It happened on her birthdate of April 18, 1918. My grandfather wanted to mark the moment, the beginning, he hoped, of the long awaited liberation of his country. She was never Mum in the family. She was Kippe, and was fiercely proud of it.'
'War Horse as book, play and film, has travelled the world. The wonderful NT production has been seen by over 6 million people, and now it is coming to Belgium, my grandfather's homeland, a country that suffered long and hard through two world wars, but now stands at the heart of a Europe that lives at last in peace. War Horse is a play about the pity of war, the universal suffering of war, and our longing for peace and reconciliation. It belongs in Belgium.'
'On December 22, as well as visiting these moving memorials, I performed in a concert in Ypres Cathedral with the actress, Virginia Mackenna, and the Capella group, Voices at the Door. There we told and sang the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914, with carols from France, Belgium, Germany and Britain. I just wish my mother could have been there, my grandfather too, in Ypres, and in Antwerp too when the play comes there next year.'
'Joey may have been born in my mind's eye, on the farm in Devon where I live. He may have gone to South Africa where he was made - he is still there now, on stage every night in Cape Town. But the roots of his story and my story go back to Belgium. He is in a very real sense coming home.'
Photos by Luk Monsaert