War Horse returns to the Liverpool Empire this summer after a record-breaking visit to the Lime Street venue two years ago.
The multi award-winning show will be stabled at the theatre from July 31 to August 17.
And its star, Joey the horse, made an early return to the city to meet a group of Liverpool schoolchildren at Central Library – before surprising passers by and visitors to the William Brown Street attraction by taking a walk on its literary path.
War Horse has been seen by almost eight million people across the world since it was premiered at the National Theatre in 2007.
This latest appearance at the Empire follows international dates for Joey, Topthorn and co in Dublin, Hong Kong and Auckland.
One of the team tasked with keeping the beloved puppet steed in top shape is Liverpool’s Becks Chan, one of three puppet technicians who work with War Horse on tour.
The Gateacre-raised freelance puppet maker has worked with Joey since 2014.
She explains: “My role is to ensure Joey is show ready and fit for performance. I put him through very thorough checks including inspecting all the mechanisms and looking out for any damage he might have sustained.
“Another part of our role is to ensure the puppeteers working Joey are happy in their harnesses, are comfortable, and to deal with any niggles, working with the show’s physios as part of the backstage team.”
Becks (pictured left) also carries out repairs, and even makes small replacement sections for the puppet – which weighs between eight and 10 stone WITHOUT a rider on board. That includes creating a number of new shins.
Coming home to Liverpool as part of the tour is particularly exciting, she admits, and especially as the show is based at the Empire.
“What got me involved in theatre was seeing Grease at the Empire,” she reveals. “It really made an impact on me and hopefully War Horse will have a similar impact on the young people who see it – and those who have got to meet Joey in person.”
Set against the backdrop of the First World War, Michael Morpurgo’s remarkable and moving story of course, loyalty and friendship centres on a young Devon lad called Albert (Scott Miller) and his loyal horse Joey and is the most successful play in the National Theatre’s history.
The show involves 23 puppets, from a foal and a flighty goose to Joey and Topthorn, his best friend on the battlefield, which were created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company.
It has won 25 awards including Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Director for Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris.
War Horse is at the Liverpool Empire from July 31 to August 17. Tickets HERE