Touring – reviewed at The Lowry, Salford
You must have had your head stuck in a bale of hay since 2007 if you are not familiar with War Horse. The production has racked up a phenomenal 25 awards, including the Tony Award for Best Play on Broadway and has been enjoyed by over seven million people across the world. Originally a children’s book written by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse is set to the bloody and brutal backdrop of the First World War and tells the remarkable tale of a boy, Albert, and his beloved horse, Joey.
Adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford, and in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company, War Horse is a completely unique performance experience. Puppeteers, set and sound designers, choreographers and performers work together to create living and breathing equine giants – fully articulated, meticulous, whinnying, snorting hulks of horse. The structures are like beautiful machines and are moved and manipulated by a skilful team of physical performers.
The staging is beautifully clean, performers with props set the scene throughout, which allows the beasts and birds with their puppeteers to shine. Film is projected onto a backdrop of torn paper – changing throughout the show to reflect the setting – the audience is transported from idyllic farmland to the bloody fields of battle.
The cast is pretty amazing too with Thomas Dennis (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) taking on the lead role of Albert Narracott – his relationship with Joey resonates tenderly and he plays the role with spirit and youthfulness.
The National Theatre’s War Horse certainly lives up to all of the hype. This was my first time to see the production – I’ve watched the trailers, read the reviews and bawled at the 2011 film – I thought I knew what to expect. I’m a hardened theatre critic, aren’t I? However, like most of the inspired audience, I was brought to my feet, and to tears, by this magnificent production.