The role of Albert in the long-running War Horse has produced some highly distinguished alumni, starting with Luke Treadaway, who went on to win an Olivier Award for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and, more recently, Kit Harington, who is a major star now thanks to Game of Thrones. The role is currently being played at the New London Theatre by Jack Loxton, who took over the play’s horse-loving leading man in March. Broadway.com caught up with Loxton to reflect on the early days of a career that holds even greater promise to come.
You’re now in a long-running play that seems to have become a West End fixture. How does that feel?
First and foremost, it feels like an honor to be part of such a phenomenon: the story, the film, the book, and of course the play of War Horse have all made such an impression, and it feels an absolute joy to be part of the play and to be able to tell this story to audiences for another year.
War Horse offers such a unique challenge, given the interaction required between the human characters and the puppeteers who bring to life the animal aspects of the performance—Joey (the horse referenced in the title) especially.
And Joey can be very temperamental some nights. This is an extremely technical play with all the puppetry that’s going on: there’s a section called “clipping and unclipping,” and sometimes it proves quite a handful positioning Joey around the stage.
Are you experienced with horses yourself?
I’d been riding horses for a decade or so, since I was about 12, and had an allergic reaction so I wasn’t allowed to go horseback riding in case of injury, which is quite ironic given that I have ended up in this play. Luckily, our Joey is made of nice cane, not manky fur, so I don’t have to sneeze!
People have described the play as “boy-meets horse/boy-loses-horse,” culminating in a moving finale.
What’s brilliant about it is that Albert is a hopeful person who is tested and pushed in every direction and through insurmountable odds tries his best to find his horse. I find Albert such an admirable character to the extent that he’s so positive and brave and courageous. I’d never be able to take on those qualities in my own life.
This is actually your second West End takeover since leaving drama school in July 2013, which seems pretty good going in a relatively brief period of time.
Yes, my first professional job was the alternate Christopher [the male lead] in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and it was such a privilege to make my debut in a part like that in such an incredible play – one that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Both Christopher and now Albert were roles originated by Luke Treadaway in productions directed by Marianne Elliott [who co-directed War Horse with Tom Morris], so there’s a pattern developing, no?
It is kind of bizarre to have followed on from one actor like this but on the other hand, it also feels like not a bad way to start. Luke’s obviously a very good actor and someone to look up to, so it’s been a privilege in that respect, as it has been to have two parts in two plays that are so well-renowned. I feel very lucky to be a part of two amazing shows so quickly.
The part of Albert in particular has been a fast-track to stardom.
That’s about War Horse offering a fantastic foothold, though I’m certainly not thinking about stardom and all that stuff myself: for me, it’s all about experience and being very humble and keeping your feet on the ground. Kit’s story is such a great story, but it’s not like I’m sitting there thinking, “I’m going to be in the next Breaking Bad.”
It must be great so early in your career to have a year’s contract on the West End.
It means I'm able to relax and enjoy London while having a beautiful part in a beautiful play. For me at this point in the run it’s about keeping my stamina and energy levels up—about finding a routine of looking after yourself and stretching properly. This role isn’t as physically grueling as Christopher but nor is it a walk in the park. [Laughs].
Can you trace your interest in theater to anything in your background?
My mom is an English teacher and a great lover of theater, so there’s that, and I was taken on when I was quite young by the youth theater at the Birmingham Rep, where I’m from, so I did manage to get some experience on stage before I got to drama school.
Was there a particular show you saw that made a lasting impact?
When I was 10 or 11, I saw a production of Noises Off that I completely fell in love with; I think I got the bug then!
Any idea, at this point, what’s on tap next?
Honestly, I’m just so glad to have what will have been 18 months of great West End work, so I don’t know what’s next. Maybe I’ll go join Kit on Game of Thrones?