Review: Epic War Horse ‘not to be missed’

THE National Theatre’s award-winning production of War Horse has come to Woking and is truly an epic production not to be missed.

Based on the novel by former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo, it tells the woeful tale of young Albert and his beloved horse Joey who is sold to an army officer and shipped off to France to the First World War and subsequent carnage of the trenches. Young Albert can’t bear to see Joey go, and so enlists himself to fight at the tender age of 16, in his quest to find Joey and bring him home.

Enthralling work of the Handspring Puppet Company is inspiring

Part of the magic of the production comes from the inspired work of the Handspring Puppet Company, who bring the animal stars to life. We first meet Joey as a young foal, and every twitch of an ear and swoosh of his tail proves so enthralling that you aren’t for one minute distracted by the puppeteers expertly managing every movement. We were transfixed at how they somehow managed to make structures constructed from a wooden framework and translucent fabric appear just like real horses; noble and strong.  The goose puppet was so lifelike and had us in stitches as it chased around the farmyard.

Transported to the horrors of life at war, there is great drama as the horses rear up and we feel as though they are galloping towards the audience. A relatively simple set is the perfect backdrop for the dramatic lighting, blasts of machine gun fire and explosions which bring the sounds, fear and terror of war home. The sight of horses and soldiers falling to the ground and a tank rolling darkly across the stage left the audience spellbound. And the trudging of the horses in the mud, struggling to pull the hospital cart brilliantly captures the dreadful waste and futility of war.

War Horse is powerful and beautiful, capturing the enduring relationship between humans and animals, and the horror of war.  The cast and puppeteers are outstanding, no surprise that the show ended to raucous enthusiastic applause.

★★★★★

Vicky Sullivan

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