Jack Loxton is currently starring as Albert Narracott in the West End production of War Horse at the New London Theatre.
He previously made his professional debut as Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Apollo Theatre.
War Horse received its world premiere at the National Theatre in October 2007 before transferring to the West End. The production is directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris. Based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse has been seen by over 6 million people worldwide.
I recently spoke to Jack about what it was like to join War Horse last year, the secret to the show’s success and what it’s like to work with the incredible puppets night after night…
Had you seen the show before being cast as Albert?
Obviously because it’s so loved across the country it’s hard to get away from [laughs]! I saw it at college when I was about seventeen; it was Kit Harington playing Albert. I obviously knew the story and then there was the film and I had read the book so I knew it quite well.
So was Albert a role you had your eye on? Or was it more of a coincidence when the audition came around?
Yes – it’s a fantastic play to watch and it’s a fantastic story. Thinking back to when I was seventeen, to be part of it would have been a bit of a dream. After being in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time the opportunity to be seen for Albert arose and I grabbed it with two hands.
Coming into a big, long-running show can sometimes be a little daunting. Were you able to put your own stamp on it?
I think it’s important when taking over a role to put your own stamp and your own mark on it, and I take that very seriously in rehearsal processes. I didn’t see the cast who were performing while we were rehearsing, it was a very organic rehearsal process and I just treated it like any other part. It’s important to make any part your own and personal to you because you only have your own experiences to base the character on. In terms of the pressure, working for the National Theatre or playing any part in a play which is well documented is always going to bring a bit of pressure. I think I kind of thrived under it, I really enjoyed it, it has been a great year!
War Horse is a very special show and at the moment it seems to be everywhere! What is its secret?
I think with any theatre, any telly or any film it’s all to do with the story, and I think War Horse tells such a powerful story that is so accessible to everyone. Any art or literature about any kind of wartime, or history for that matter, is unbelievably important in terms of education and understanding of the human condition. The story is so recognisable and accessible to different age groups and people from different backgrounds. It’s universal! The book is part of the school curriculum at the moment and I think that is testament to the story which we are privileged to retell.
The story is told in such a uniquely creative way – you really take the audience into the world of the play… it’s not something you see every day!
Totally – exactly, in terms of theatricality I think Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris have done an unbelievable job of staging such a fantastic story. It looks brilliant with all the design elements and all that kind of stuff. In terms of the puppetry, it’s such an usual trait which is kind of missed out in mainstream, commercial theatre – especially in the West End. It’s unbelievable to be in the auditorium, breathing the same air as Joey and Topthorn. Physically it’s such a fantastic sight to look on, it’s breathtaking! So the way this beautiful story is told is both original and mesmerising at the same time.
Coming into the show, what was it like to work with the puppets for the first time? The effect is incredible, but it must be quite hard to master at first?
It was definitely one of the challenges of the rehearsal process – ‘how do you as an actor communicate with what is essentially wood and a bit of aluminium?’. It’s testament to the puppeteers and their work, it’s so detailed and meticulously gone over and over. The actor onstage with the puppets and puppeteers is almost like an extra puppeteer because it’s our job to sell the true complete circle of them being real life horses. It was definitely a challenge and something I had to get used to, but over time you develop your own relationship with the puppet and the puppeteers which is like no other experience.
What is life like backstage in War Horse?
It’s an amazing company! Such a wealth of talent and wealth of individual personalities; it’s such a joy to be a part of. It’s really good fun!
Albert is such a huge role, how do you feel when you come offstage after a performance? It must be draining sometimes?
It differs, it’s a very tiring role but it’s also a very rewarding role and that makes it all worthwhile really! All the blood, sweat and tears [laughs].
We also obviously have to quickly mention Curious Incident. What is it like now to look back at your experience with the show? Christopher is another almighty role!
I look back on those months in Curious Incident with unbelievable fondness. It was another incredible story! I think playing Christopher Boone will always be one of the highlights of my career. It was my first professional job outside of drama school which was amazing. Looking back I just feel so privileged for those six months we had, and working with the National was such an amazing experience.
Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
War Horse is currently booking at the New London Theatre until Saturday 24th October 2015.
Please visit www.warhorseonstage.com for further information and tickets.
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mögenburg