The New London Theatre is the perfect stable to stage War Horse, the story which relates to the relationship between a boy and his horse which is torn apart by the First World War.
The tale stems from the novel written by Michael Morpurgo, who is present tonight celebrating the play’s fifth anniversary, appearing on stage after tonight’s performance, watched by the likes of David Baddiel and Urika Jonsson, the author shares his three concerns he had two years before his words became scripts. His first worry was deciding if a talking horse, which delivers in print could be interoperated in front of a live audience, and according to the play his idea was quickly buried deep inside the nearest nosebag.
Despite making the wise decision creating the twenty first century Mr. Ed (ask your parents) there was still the obstacle basing a play about a horse in the west end. Taking another sensible direction the four hoofs are attached to two remarkable man-made mechanisms, the first elegantly exteriorly manoeuvred by three young actors and the second, resembling our fully grown war hero, delicately led by two actors within the horses structure.
One of the prominent aspects of the story is that remains neutral, there’s no cross-conflict between the English, French or Germans which obviously play a vital part in this two hour enactment, which explains why the show, already showing in Broadway, will eventually open in Berlin, a century after the first world war. Although he laid Morpurgo’s second problem, the language barriers; fortunately translations are unnecessarily, the young French girl hiding from German soldiers in spite of their native tongues.
The first half opens at an auction where a horse is sold to Albert’s father Ted , a farmer winning over his arch nemesis, Arthur . The son becomes attached to his new foul, now christened Joey; As the horse grows so does his demands around the farm although an offer from soldiers to buy Joey for £100 (four times expensive than a pony!) is too great to ignore for Albert’s father.
Joey undergoes rigorous training in companionship of three fellow horses; on stage two of the nags are represented artistically by just two human feet facing the audience which brings the creativity even further out to the forefront.
The pace of the story gallops into the first battle scene and here laid Morpurgo’s third dilemma, how do you represent a caviller scene on stage? The answer is with puppets resembling the dying soldiers falling from horseback and in this instance it works.
As Christmas approaches young Albert receives news a fellow friend has died in battle which leads him to believe his beloved horse has been killed as well.
Interview time, audience members leave their seats at the London theatre grab a drink and presumably discuss the first act. Although a few years ago a certain audience member wasn’t just talking about the first half, he was considering reinterpreting Morpurgo’s work into a Hollywood blockbuster and for some, here lays the plays main hurdle...
In January War Horse the movie received critical acclaim, the first blockbuster of the year saw breathtaking battle scenes and was one of the most memorable films of 2012 so far. In the advent of Steven Spilberg’s film those who have watched it prior to the play will make inevitable yet unfair companions between the two. The stage show triumphs over originality and creative input yet the celluloid battle scenes gallop over any which can be transformed into a play, with the second half focusing on Albert joining the army in the hope of seeing Joey the show’s inspiration sadly dips despite its vigorous and heroic attempts to take us into war.
Still, let’s trot on...
Albert finds friendship in David, a young nervous solider who is missing his girlfriend ‘Flossy’ back home meanwhile Joey is captured by the Germans and works for the other troops, note we didn’t say enemies as don’t forget, the story stays impartial.
The play remarkable achieves the touching moments of a German horse dying on stage, with what was first seen as a couple of human bodies inside a structural model now interoperates an actual horse thanks to the professional way the stage performance unravels and let’s be fair here, that magic never had to present itself in Speilberg’s adaption.
In case you haven’t read the book, seen the film or watched the play we won’t delve into the final few scenes and when War Horse canters around the country on tour next year we recommend you jump on the saddle and catch one of the most ambitious plays in recent history.
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