Michael Morpurgo: On My Culture Radar
The War Horse author on merry Dublin and the acting prowess of Sally Hawkins
Michael Morpurgo: ‘Lying is an art form, no question.’ Photograph: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images
Current favourite book?
The Plimsoll Line by Nicolette Jones is a biography of a little-known man, only remembered because of the shoe that was named after him, who was a 19th-century pioneer of social welfare. He was one of the first to change attitudes towards exploitation in the workplace, especially for merchant sailors, many of whom were sent to sea in unseaworthy ships and lost their lives.
The Cafe du Parc in Bideford, deepest Devon, is worth the journey. It’s nothing fancy, but French country cooking at its best. Try the cassoulet, croque monsieur or confit de canard, and the crepes are better than any I have had in France.
Well, what else could I say but War Horse? For me it’s the best of theatre. There’s wonderful acting, design, music, lighting and those amazing puppets. A story about the pity and futility of war, but more about the need for reconciliation and about our longing for peace. It has played to families around the world now for more than 10 years, to some eight million people.
Elisabeth Frink is a sculptor whose depiction of animals and people conveys so much of the spirit. Her rolling horses, running men, wild boars, dogs, striding Madonna, shepherd and sheep are wondrous, moving and important.
Dublin is a city that has transformed itself. It’s still deeply Irish, but it feels truly European now. The river is no longer whiffy at all. The city reeks rather of its extraordinary history and of the glories of its literature. And there’s more laughter there than in any city I know. I always long to go back.
My father is Tony Van Bridge. He met my mother at Rada in London, went to Canada with Tyrone Guthrie, played for years in Stratford Ontario and then spent the last 20 years of his life at the Shaw Festival in Niagara. I last saw him on stage just two years before he died in a monologue by Arthur Conan Doyle. He was word-perfect. If it wasn’t for my dad, I’d have chosen Sally Hawkins. She does not act, she becomes. She warms the heart of every film she is in.
I’m addicted to Would I Lie to You? I was a really convincing liar as a child, but the panellists on the game show outlie me every time. I couldn’t play it at all well, because I’m inclined to believe everything they claim. And I love the absurd, quick-witted, irreverent, hilarious banter. Lying is an art form, no question.
I’ve just seen a film I love called Waiting for Anya, a film very few will have seen because it’s not coming out until this autumn. It’s based on my book from 1990, and is the first screenplay by Ben Cookson. There’s a great international cast including Angelica Huston, Jean Reno, Thomas Kreitchman and Noah Schnapp. It’s set in the Pyrenees during the occupation of France in the second World War, and is the story of how Jewish children were looked after in a safe house in the village and guided over the mountains into Spain. There’s wonderful music, great acting, great script and directing. It’s utterly convincing and deeply moving.
War Horse is at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin, April 10th-27th. bordgaisenergytheatre.ie