The phenomenon that is War Horse has been brought well and truly (kicking and screaming) into the 21st Century as the iPad App launches for the princely sum of £9.99.
To celebrate this news the author, Michael Morpurgo, was brought into the Regent Street Apple Shop in London on Saturday 24th November 2012 to read from the (iPad version of) the book as well as answer a few questions about his life and work.
I settled in a few minutes early and was surprised to see quite a few spare seats – given that this was late night shopping, the streets were closed to traffic to allow for a multide of pedestrians and the store itself was heaving…
MM was late arriving, we were not informed whether this was his fault or something else, but a few people were getting restless and the Apple guy just said “that’s show biz”. Whatever.
Anyway, MM arrived in his crumpled and unfashionable burgundy suit, looking a little like a disheveled school teacher. I remembered that I was not particularly keen about the book and I questioned what I was actually doing there. Then he started talking…
He’s a humble guy. He’s entertaining and captivating. A great mix of humour and story-telling. He told of his passion for books inherited from his mother reading her favourite books to him. He told of his years as a Primary Scholl teacher (I wonder if he had that suit all these years).
He spoke about his technophobia – revealing he still writes in pen and his wife types. And he made no secret when he could not open the War Horse app up – inviting a boy up to the stage to do it in seconds! He is not afraid to belittle himself in public, in spite of his success as author of over 100 books.
He knows that the War Horse phenomenon escalated when Steven Spielberg made the film – since the publication in 1982 the book sold about 1000 copies a year and was translated into just two languages. After the success of the stage show and then ‘the call’ from SS te phenomenon exploded into a global success and is now translated into over 43 languages.=
I was interested to hear that Morpurgo never intended for the book to be a Children’s book – it was inspired by a conversation he had in his Devonshire village with a First World War veteran in the seventies – a guy called Will who was in the Yeomanry and revealed in some candid conversations that he spoke to his horse about his fears and “the horse listened”.
There were moments when I felt real emotion in his account of Will’s story, how he listened to the old man who as a young soldier went to a war where so few came back – men or horses.
We also had a special guest – a Private dressed from the era whose outfit and conditions were described by a chap from the Imperial War Museum.
Apparently the app timelines the First World War, gives details of the uniforms, locations and decisions that took place. MM is genuinely delighted that the story he wrote touchs young and old alike whether it’s the book, the show or the film.
I really liked the guy, bet he’d be excellent at a dinner party…