War Horse has got to be one of the most touching stories I have ever had the pleasure of seeing on stage. Despite the brutality and inhumanity of World War One, Joey the horse reminds everyone both on and off stage of compassion, an emotion often buried in the ruins of a war.
The story, based on the book by Michael Morpurgo [Click here to listen to the interview], tells the tale of Joey and his friend Albert and their friendship undeterred by their parting as Joey gets sold to the British army.
The puppetry is so tasteful and so beautifully made that it is easy to forget that he is not a real horse, even though you can see the people controlling him. The puppeteers are beyond impressive as they respond to every movement and every sound they hear on the stage. From the twitch of an ear or the flick of the tail, there is no doubt that this horse will capture the hearts of audiences night after night [Click here to read the interview with the heart of the horse, John Leader].
The Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa are the talented people behind the puppets in the show. I would love to see more of their work as they have redefined all expectations of what a puppet is and in what context they should be used.
While the horse may have been the focus of the show, that isn't to say that the humans were any less of an asset to this show. The range of emotions through the show whether it was the friendships between Joey and his various owners or the rage of war, there was no doubt that the whole audience was captivated by every moment. You could hear every gasp and see the wave of the audience ripple back at the sound of every gun shot. The way the language divides were dealt with by the characters added some lightheartedness to this play and credit is definitely due here to the actors with their impeccable humor timings in spite of the seriousness of the plot.
Unfortunately yet, understandably tickets for this show are sold out at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I would definitely recommend anyone to find any theatre with a few tickets remaining and go see this show.
On Friday 8th November, the author of War Horse will be returning to the Hippodrome for a special event, 'Only Remembered' where he will be reading extracts of his book in the lead up to the following Sunday which will be Remembrance Sunday. Click Here for more information.
Human Cast: James Alper, Lee Armstrong, Peter Ash, Emily Aston, Nisa Cole, Joe Darke, David Fleeshman, Adam Foster, Bob Fox , Jason Furnival, Sean McKenzie, Alex Moran, Suzanne Nixon, Tom Norman, Joseph Richardson, Paul Simpson, Simeon Truby, Martin Wenner.
Horse Cast: Thomas Gilbey, Oliver Grant, Finn Hanlon, Karl Haynes, Karen Henthorn, Steven Hillman, Michael Humphreys, Linford Johnson, Andrew Keay, Rebecca Killick, Tom Larkin, John Leader, Helen Macfarlane, Alex Moran, Suzanne Nixon, Tom Norman, Peter Twose, Richard Vorster.