YOU CAN TAKE A HORSE TO WATER, BUT YOU CAN’T MAKE IT ACT.
We simply couldn’t involve a real horse in this production. Sadly they can’t speak! Nor are they any good at taking direction.
Ultimately the question of how to portray a cast of horses on stage was answered by costume designer Hayley Neil (West Yorkshire Playhouse, Northern Ballet, Trafalgar Studios). She created several stunning and stylized metal headpieces, each with a character of its own, allowing each horse to exist in a believable way, and not be just a talking horse. The headpieces needed to allow the actor to freely express the emotions in different scenes, and of course deliver their dialogue. They had to be robust enough to be worn by the actors when playing physically-demanding horse characters, but easy to remove when the cast portray the human roles. The hundreds of other costumes, wigs, and accessories worn and used by the cast as they take on varied personas are well designed and sourced by Mollie Daley and her team, each costume specifically designed and assembled to be truly indicative of the period, be it a grand outfit worn by the aristocracy, or the flat cap and braces of the working class.
SETTING THE SCENE
The set also required some creative thought. The play’s action moves through several vastly different settings; from the idyllic stables at Birtwick Park, the dark and dank depths of the mines, the streets of London, and the racecourse at Epsom. The set has been carefully designed by our designer Bill Butcher, and cleverly constructed so that the cast themselves use a system of visual props and structures to recreate the many different scenes, instantly and seamlessly transporting the audience and the action to wherever it needs to be.