The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have today visited the National Theatre, as the institution celebrates 50 years since the first National Theatre production. The tour was given by the Theatre’s outgoing director, Sir Nicholas Hytner.
During the tour, the Queen had an encounter with one of the puppet horses from the production of War Horse, based on Michael Morpurgo’s famous novel. The Queen has seen the show which tells the story of Joey, a horse serving in World War I.
The National Theatre’s first production, Hamlet, was performed 50 years ago to the day. Peter O’Toole was cast as the leading role at the Old Vic Theatre back in 1963, under the presence of the National Theatre’s founder, Sir Lawrence Oliver.
In 1976, the National Theatre moved to its current home on the South Bank, London.
Over the last 50 years, more than 800 productions have taken place, including premieres of plays by Tom Shepard, Alan Bennett and David Hare to name a few.
Today was not the first time the Queen has met Joey. During the Diamond Jubilee River Thames pageant last year, the puppet ran across the roof of the National Theatre saluting, much to the Queen’s enjoyment. As the tour was coming to an end, the Queen told the puppet horse “it’s lovely to see you again”.
Joey escorted the Queen to her state limousine; rearing up his hind legs as the car departed.
Speaking to BBC news, puppeteer, Gareth Aled said “It’s all about striving for realistic horse movement, every horse movement should feel life-like.”
Sir Nicholas Hytner, who toured the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh around the National Theatre will be leaving his role as director in 2015. Rufus Norris will replace him.