Posts with the label peter becker
Showing posts with label peter becker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peter becker. Show all posts

Thursday 2 August 2018

War Horse (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

War Horse (UK Tour)
New Victoria Theatre 
Reviewed on Wednesday 1st August 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

Since its premiere at the National Theatre in 2007, War Horse has been enthralling audiences around the world and after seeing it, it's clear why. The play follows the deeply moving story of the relationship between a young boy, Albert Narracott, played brilliantly by Thomas Dennis, and his adored horse, Joey.

Whilst this story begins as an unflinching quest for a boy to find his horse after it has been taken as part of the World War One front, it quickly becomes a story of how horses were sacrificed on mass at the battle lines. For the men of the army, the horses lives symbolise their own and its especially affecting to see how the men measure their lives by their horses.

The reality of war is brought to life with dramatic simplicity, with sound effects and bright lights hitting us with an intensity that transports us to the battlefield. This production is alarmingly powerful and honest.

Also brought to life are the friendships of life and war. Particularly moving is a scene where the two opposing sides make peace as the unite to free Joey from barbed wire in the midst of war. The friendship between Emilie (Joëlle Brabban) and Friedrich Müller (Peter Becker) is equally touching, especially as we see the way the war really effects Müller and takes it's toll on his mental health.

The stars of the show however, have to be the impeccable puppet and Handspring Puppet Company who bring them to life. The puppets become real and it's hard to believe there are puppeteers controlling them, even when they are in full view on stage. The breathing, galloping and entire personalities come to life and we are immersed in this stunning production.

Everything about War Horse screams National Theatre and this tour does a stellar job of making us feel as though we are in the Olivier Theatre. Although vastly complex, the whole show comes off looking and feeling simplistic and effortless. Whilst moving and poignant, this production all in all is beautiful. Providing a reminder of the sacrifices those before us have made and highlighting the futility of war, this is a must see for people of all ages.

War Horse runs at the New Victoria Theatre until August 18th before continuing its tour.

photo credit: Brinkhoff and Mögenburg

War Horse (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Thursday 2 August 2018

Friday 15 December 2017

War Horse, New Theatre Oxford | Review

War Horse
New Theatre Oxford 
Reviewed on Wednesday 13th December 2017 by Donna Meredith 

I came to this production having read the Michael Morpurgo novel, on which this adaptation by Nick Stafford is based, several times with my children.  I relished the prospect of finally getting to see how this beloved story would translate from the page to the stage, and how the characters of Joey and Topthorn in particular would be brought to life in puppetry.

Since its premiere on 17th October 2007 War Horse has been mesmerising audiences across the world and I now know why. This 10th Anniversary tour is made more poignant by its timing following the recent 100 year anniversary of armistice day.

The production depicted the extraordinary and deeply moving story of the relationship between the central character, Albert Narracott played by the superb Thomas Dennis, and his beloved horse, Joey. 

On one hand, the tale of a young man’s unwavering quest to find his adored horse after it was requisitioned for the WW1 war effort. On another, this tells the story of how horses were used and sacrificed in huge numbers on the French battlefields.

Alberts quest to be reunited with Joey takes us on a journey as he enlists and goes off to war. The reality of war is brought to life on stage to dramatic effect, the sound effects and imagery at times alarming in their honesty and intensity. The stirring music and songs, alongside the visual imagery projected on stage add to the powerful impact.

We see how relationships develop both on the home front and on the bloody battlefields  and how the war effects different characters. A poignant example is the friendship between Friedrich Muller played by Peter Becker and young Emilie played by Joelle Brabban.  As the horrors of battle take their inevitable toll on Muller we see him lose his grip on reality and develop an almost childlike quality.

However the standout stars of the show, in my opinion, are the Handspring Puppet Company who bring amazing puppetry and skill to the stage. To describe the horses as 'puppets' doesn't do justice to how amazing they are. Even with the puppeteers in full view of the audience, the horses appear 'real'. They come to life before you, galloping, charging, breathing . I was immersed in the story and the realism of what was portrayed on stage.

Complex, intense and disturbing yet gentle and moving in equal measure. I would recommend this wonderful production to theatre goers of all ages. A enduring story of humanity and friendship and a timely reminder of the futility of war and the sacrifices made by those that have gone before us. 

War Horse runs at the New Theatre Oxford until 6th January 2018.

War Horse, New Theatre Oxford | Review

Friday 15 December 2017

Monday 23 October 2017

In Conversation With... Peter Becker | Interview

Peter Becker is currently starring in the UK Tour of War Horse and is the first  German person to play Friedrich in the show. He sat down with me to discuss the show and his role...

Can you tell us a little bit about the rehearsal process for War Horse?

On the first day of rehearsals I was seriously overwhelmed by the sheer scale of things. We were rehearsing in a massive industry complex at Morden Wharf in London and I could not quite get my head around the enormity of the undertaking. There are so many people involved in creating the show! The actual stage floor was already installed, we were immediately provided with all the necessary props and costumes. It felt like stepping into a whole new universe. I was invited to  improvise with both horses in order to find out how to interact with them. Since the puppeteers knew everything about the anatomy and the natural behaviour of horses it all felt very natural. Like the audience I totally forgot they weren’t real horses I was dealing with in the matter of minutes. As the horses will solely react on the tone of our voices and the way we move I started speaking German to them. It was very interesting to learn that it didn't matter what language I used, they still understood my intentions and reacted accordingly. The attention to detail and the love that has been invested by the National Theatre is immense. 

During rehearsals we had a visit from the Imperial War Museum, providing us with in-depth information. We visited the King's Troops, who answered all questions about the military handling of horses. We had military training, shooting lessons, went to several exhibitions and prepared presentations on the First World War from English, German and French perspective.

What’s the most challenging part about bringing this story to life?

In Germany actors are mostly hired to play repertoire shows as a permanent cast member with one particular theatre where as over here it is common to play one show with a company every night. I first had to adapt to the different system. In addition, it is very challenging to interact with the horse puppets. On one hand it is very easy to believe they are real as they are so brilliantly manipulated, on the other hand you have to be technically very precise in order to achieve certain effects. Funnily for me the most demanding part was speaking English with a very strong German accent. I am half an Englishman and have a much less pronounced accent in real life. When playing, I got confused at first. It was very interesting to determine how different my brain works when I have to switch back and forth between the two languages. I feel a little delayed sometimes because I will often translate mentally before I react. My voice also sounds different when I speak English I believe.

Can you explain a little about your character?

When introduced at first, we get to know Friedrich as a high-ranking German military officer - shortly after capturing English soldiers. The challenge is to give the "enemy" - from an English perspective - a human face. In the course of the story, Friedrich will lose his beliefs in the concept of war and thus question his entire life. From a dramatic point of view, he reflects Albert's development in a nearly mirror-like manner: Whereas Albert continues to harden, Friedrich, in his desperate desire to defend his humanity, continues to soften through his experience in the war. What binds the two characters together is their unconditional love for the horses. 

Besides yourself, which actor in the production is going to blow people away?

I have the privilege of being part of an outstanding ensemble. It is unbelievable what talented actors our Casting Director Jill Green and Director Katie Henry have gathered to bring this enormous show to life. It is merely impossible to emphasise individual colleagues at this point as War Horse is a true ensemble play with everyone contributing equally to it’s success.

You’re the first German Friedrich in War Horse, what’s the experience been like? Do you feel an extra pressure taking on the role?

It is very exciting in many ways to meet this challenge. In Germany, the First World War is completely overhauled by the reprocessing and remembrance of the Second World War. Because of the Germans' war guilt, there is no collective mourning of the dead, we have no equivalent to Remembrance Day. Only in recent years have there been attempts to tell the differentiated history of German soldiers. I too grew up with the image of the unscrupulous murderer, who would literally stop at nothing. Now having the opportunity to give the German soldiers a human face is a great responsibility which stirs me every evening anew. It is important to point out that we are all human beings with the same fears, hopes and needs, especially in those times when we seem to be moving farther and farther apart. Besides, I am very much looking forward to perform before my English family for the first time. My aunts, uncles, cousins and grandcousins have so far only seen me on TV, never on stage before...

What do you think makes War Horse so special and lasting? 

To me War Horse almost represents a deep psychological inventory of the British nation. The songs put together by John Tams and performed by Bob Fox are deeply rooted in the DNA of the British people - partly going as far back as Celtic times. The story has a universal character whilst, very concretely taking place in a time that characterises Great Britain to this very day. The unspeakable suffering and the social upheavals, caused by the First World War, which interestingly is called The Great War over here, have in the most brutally possible way ushered in modern society. The audience is invited to witness the transition from 'innocent' country life to technologically alienation. Through the identification with the horses those unconscious experiences are being made accessible again. I believe it is a very cathartic experience for a lot of people.

What do you think will people be saying as they leave the theatre? 

No more wars, hopefully.

If you had a magic wand, which show would you do next? 

The place in Germany I come from (interestingly founded in the Middle Ages by an English monk from Malmesbury) is home to the largest German open-air  theatre festival - the Bad Hersfelder Festspiele. There I saw a stunningly current version of Cabaret last year. The piece has accompanied me since I was 15 as it was the first I ever performed in. Ten years ago I also had the chance to play the role of Ernst Ludwig in Vienna. I would very much like to have the opportunity to bring the time before the Nazis took over to life in English-speaking countries because there are so many obvious parallels to our present time, which I would love to explore - preferably in the role of the M.C.

If you could travel back to any era, when would you go to and why? 

Last year I had the opportunity to play in an exciting new series, which will soon be broadcast in England on Sky and in America on Netflix. It is called Babylon Berlin and like Cabaret it is set in the period of change between First and Second World War. An incredibly ambivalent era between joy and despair. A hysterical time in which a whole society is living on the edge. If I had the chance I would love to go back to the Twenties in Berlin to experience what people felt and how ultimate freedom could turn into repression so easily.

Finally, what’s your best piece of advice for aspiring performers? 

Our profession is increasingly internationalising. I am personally experiencing just how enriching it is to work in another country at the moment. In this respect, I would advise young actors: Travel as much as you can, learn different languages, the world is great and the possibilities are more diverse than ever before!

Thank you so much Peter for chatting with us! Make sure you catch War Horse on it's UK Tour.

Interview by Olivia Mitchell, Editor

In Conversation With... Peter Becker | Interview

Monday 23 October 2017