REVIEW: War Horse - London 23/06/14

I can't vouch for the whole audience, but I can certainly vouch for the likes of me and my friend India when it comes to admitting the plenty of tears that were shed over War Horse. Whether they were tears of laughter, sadness, and happiness we certainly had our fair share of crying into my jumper.

This adaptation of War Horse does exclude the twist of Morphurgos novel, and the play is inevitably no longer in the horses perspective. However, we still learn about the story of young Albert, who's drunken father ends up splashing their remaining money on a horse in order to get one over his brother. Albert falls into a deep friendship with the horse, which he names Joey. After raising Joey from a foal and into adulthood we see Albert teach him how to plough, before having to let Joey aid on the battlefields of the 1914 to 1918 war grounds. The story revolves around Albert and his longing to become reunited with Joey, signing up to fight for his country in pursuit of his horse.

Albert and Joey go for a run

Of course, the first thing I thought of when it came to War Horse was how on earth would they re-create the horses on stage? I'm sure many of you have heard, as I had, how striking these puppets were but I wondered whether it would be realistic with the puppeteers alongside them throughout.
The puppeteers movements throughout the stage adaptation of Michael Morphurgo's War Horse could so easily be overlooked with how well they did in fact blend in; but in reality they were the real stars of the show. Without the sharp choreography and movement of the horses, the play wouldn't be the spectacle it is. Each puppateer gave the structure of the horses it's own life and through a simple twitch of the ear or a swipe of a tail it wasn't long before it felt like I really was watching animals in their life form.

Though, the horses weren't the only things given life on the stage. As the play goes on puppeteers create birds that fly out above the audience, a very likeable goose, and a jaw-dropping battle tank which seems to roar across the stage- the monochrome lights creating a scene that was almost art as it towered above the room.

Throughout the performance we encounter some very harrowing war scenes, the war themed atmosphere making the story of a boys fight for his friend even more emotive and hard hitting. The view of war was not biased at all, and their was a very warming scene where two men of opposite sides decided on who would keep Joey through a game of heads or tails rather than violence. You saw how the men felt no anger to those they were killing, and had just been forced into inhuman situations out of duty to their country.

War Horse was a swift yet breath-taking production which was brought to life through the simple movement of a horse. Other than the odd traditional war song sung by a young woman, there was no big musical number or dance performance. We were there to see acting that brought sadness, joy and delight along with it and that is exactly what we were presented with.

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