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is the place to be with two cultural coups soaring high in the city this February half term! The National Theatre’s acclaimed play War Horse continues to play Sunderland Empire until 23 February 2019 and the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens continues to inspire visitors until 6 May 2019.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing features 12 drawings from the Italian master and is part of a national tour to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.  Sunderland is one of 12 UK venues chosen by Royal Collection Trust to simultaneously host the exhibition, which will feature a total of 144 Leonardo drawings.

War Horse is based on the beloved novel by Michael Morpurgo, this powerfully moving and imaginative drama, filled with stirring music and songs, is a show of phenomenal inventiveness. At its heart are astonishing life-sized horses by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, who bring breathing, galloping, charging horses to thrilling life on stage.

At the outbreak of World War One, Joey, young Albert’s beloved horse, is sold to the Cavalry and shipped to France. He’s soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary journey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man’s land. Albert, who remained on his parents’ Devon farm, cannot forget Joey. Though still not old enough to enlist he embarks on a treacherous mission to find him and bring him home.

Ben Phillips, Theatre Director, Sunderland Empire said: “Audiences have been in awe of the nationally acclaimed production of War Horse and we have been delighted to host this ground-breaking production for its only North East dates. Alongside, the phenomenal Leonardo da Vinci exhibition over at the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, these are two cultural highlights we would urge residents not to miss for their limited engagements in the city.”

Over half term, Sunderland Empire will be holding two community days on Wednesday 20th and Saturday 23rd February, prior to the 2.30pm matinee. The National Theatre will lead a community day that gives families the opportunity to become a puppeteer and explore backstage! 

This event includes family-friendly backstage tours of the Sunderland Empire and War Horse themed workshops suitable for families with children 8+. Tickets cost £7.50 per person or £6 when booking 3 or more places and are strictly subject to availability. These events are also open to non-show ticket holders. Price excludes ticket to the performance.

War Horse is an unforgettable theatrical event which takes audiences on an extraordinary journey from the fields of rural Devon to the trenches of First World War France. 

Over at the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition a range of half term activities are on the cards including the launch of the Leonardo ‘Code Cracker’ Trail on Saturday 16 February and is available until the following Sunday 24 February and costs £2.50 per child (tickets can be bought from the Museum shop).

Then on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of half term week the Museum is holding three workshops, each one reflecting a different aspect of Leonardo’s interests and passions.

‘Bird’s Eye Views’ on Monday, February 18 will see children make a giant map of Wearside, inspired by Leonardo’s maps of Italy as well as creating their own ‘memory maps’ of favourite places to take home.

Wednesday, February 20 is the day for ‘Body Sculptures’ where youngsters will be encouraged to construct 3D models of the human body. They will be guided to take their inspiration from Leonardo’s anatomical drawings including lungs and feet.

Then on Friday, February 21 there is a chance to dress up like a Renaissance character from Leonardo da Vinci’s time in ‘Portraits and Poses’. Children will then be able to take a selfie before drawing their own portrait and one of their family.

Tickets for Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, costing £2.50, can be pre-booked online by visiting or at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens' reception during opening hours. Entry for under-16s is free, but they will need a ticket.

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