THEATRE bosses have apologised and offered free return tickets after technical problems twice interrupted a flagship production last night (Tuesday, May 13).

Hundreds were gathered at the Sunderland Empire theatre for Tuesday night’s performance of the hit West End show War Horse, but the play had to be stopped twice early on due to technical problems with the sound desk.

The National Theatre, the group behind the production, has apologised and is offering dissatisfied customers free tickets to another performance.

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Theatregoers will have to be quick though, as War Horse’s three-week run in Sunderland ends on Saturday (May 17).

The stoppages are said to have lasted about an hour in total, with the final curtain on the 7.30pm performance, which was scheduled to run for two hours and 25 minutes, eventually falling at 11.10pm.

Some audience members, including a group from Valley Gardens Middle School, in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, had to leave early due to their transport arrangements and missed the finale.

School governor Rob Stewart posted on Twitter: “Kids called it an epic failure as they had to leave early.”

A National Theatre spokesman said its sound desk was subject to pre-show checks before any performance and the issues were “unexpected and not able to be anticipated”.

He said the majority of the audience stayed until the end of the show, when they showed their appreciation with a standing ovation.

The cast in turn showed their appreciation by applauding the audience, the spokesman added.

Addressing those who had to leave early, he said: “We are very sorry for the disappointment caused to them.

“We would like to thank the audience for their patience, their understanding and their appreciation of the show.

“We would also like to thank the technical staff and the theatre staff for managing the unscheduled stops with the minimum of disruption.”

The play tells the story of a young boy named Albert and his horse Joey, which is sold into service in the First World War, and features a life-sized horse puppet.

It is based on a book by former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo and was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster by Stephen Spielberg.