war horse

War Horse
Nation Theatre
New London Theatre

Boy meets horse, boy loses horse, boy goes to find horse. Simple enough story. Set is in World War II and send the horse of to the battlefields of France, and things start getting a little more complicated.

There is nothing complicated in the manner with which this story is told on the stage of the New London. The piece is simple, honest and glorious. Quite frankly, story telling at its best.

Why do we love a bit of puppetry? Are we transported back to the days of sock puppets and Punch and Judy shows, when we delighted is just as simply story telling? War Horse uses puppetry in a most dynamic way. The horses are so skilfully operated that you feel the three men guiding the parts of these equine machine move as one spirit and one mind. They breath their own life into these proud animals.

And the goose! Who knew such comedy could be rung from such feathers and some wires.

Rumour has it that when Steven Spielburg saw this production he immediately purchased the films rights. I understand why. I was moved by this production, thinking it was the kind of work that I would love to be associated with. But I wonder whether the use of live horses will lose some of the magic in the cinematic interpretation of this film. The simplicity of a person hold a pole to represent a fence is all part of the art in which this story is told. That said, the “human” cast are also just a fine. It is their relationship to the no human characters that make it even more real to watch.

From the seemingly black void of the stage come the ghosts of the past to share with us the scenes of the play. The production design is flawless.  Animation, puppetry, musical interludes, all combine to create a rich aesthetic that transports the soul to a place in time. A remembrance.

War Horse speaks to that part of us that has known loss, whether it be a friend, a family member, or a much beloved pet.  This production will no doubt run for some time, and rightly so. It is a joy to behold.


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