Touring – reviewed at New Victoria Theatre, Woking
War Horse has been enthralling audiences around the world and after seeing it, it’s clear why. The play follows the deeply moving story of the relationship between a young boy, Albert Narracott, played brilliantly by Thomas Dennis, and his adored horse, Joey.
Whilst this story begins as an unflinching quest for a boy to find his horse after it has been taken as part of the World War One front, it quickly becomes a story of how horses were sacrificed on mass at the battle lines. For the men of the army, the horses’ lives symbolise their own and its especially affecting to see how the men measure their lives by their horses.
The reality of war is brought to life with dramatic simplicity, with sound effects and bright lights hitting us with an intensity that transports us to the battlefield. This production is alarmingly powerful and honest.
Also brought to life are the friendships of life and war. Particularly moving is a scene where the two opposing sides make peace as the unite to free Joey from barbed wire in the midst of war. The friendship between Emilie (Joëlle Brabban) and Friedrich Müller (Peter Becker) is equally touching, especially as we see the way the war really affects Müller and takes its toll on his mental health.
The stars of the show, however, have to be the impeccable puppet and Handspring Puppet Company who bring them to life. The puppets become real and it’s hard to believe there are puppeteers controlling them, even when they are in full view on stage. The breathing, galloping and entire personalities come to life and we are immersed in this stunning production.
Everything about War Horse screams National Theatre and this tour does a stellar job of making us feel as though we are in the Olivier Theatre. Although vastly complex, the whole show comes off looking and feeling simplistic and effortless. Whilst moving and poignant, this production all in all is beautiful. Providing a reminder of the sacrifices those before us have made and highlighting the futility of war, this is a must see for people of all ages.
War Horse runs at the New Victoria Theatre until August 18th before continuing its tour.
photo credit: Brinkhoff and Mögenburg