Impressive Puppetry Brings Riveting Story of War Horse to Life

War Horse is tender and heart warming story about trust, loyalty, friendship and the special bond between a boy and his horse; how war tears them apart and how fate ultimately brings them back together again. Set in England, Albert raises his horse Joey, who his father bought in a bidding war at the local market using his mortgage money for their farm. World War I starts and his father betrays his promise and sells Joey to the cavalry. The lieutenant, who chooses Joey was his mount, promises that he will bring Joey safely back to Albert, but of course, war derails all carefully laid plans. When Albert hears about the lieutenant's death, he enlists to serve in the war even though he is too young, determined to bring Joey home. As the war drags on, it brings Albert to the front lines and Joey ends up serving on both sides, before ending up in no man's land. Neither realize just how close they were to each other. Eventually, with their bodies and spirits broken, fate intervened and brings boy and horse together again in an emotionally charged reunion.
Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
War Horse was adapted from author Michael Morpurgo's 1982 children's novel of the same name. I was expecting a musical but it's more a play with musical interludes than a proper musical. It's actually great how they approached such a somber topic such as war; a more musical-like performance would have cheapened the experience.

It has also been made a movie in 2011. I was first introduced to War Horse through the movie so I was familiar with the story before watching it last night. At 2 hours 45 minutes including intermission, War Horse is by no means a short play and thus more suited to adult audiences. It was as long as the movie version but it felt like it was a better length than the movie, which I found lagged on a bit. There were parts of the play where it was hard to hear what the actors were saying but this didn't detract from the overall experience. Instead, I was riveted to every part of the play.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Viewing it in live theatre is very different from watching it on screen. For one thing, it was very intense. Waaaay more so live. The accompanying music and play on lighting upped the intensity of scenes already fraught with tension. Even thought I knew what was going to happen, I found myself at the edge of my seat for many a scene. Then I asked myself: why am I getting so worked up? It's because the puppetry is astounding! Made by South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company, it takes a minimum of three puppeteers to bring Joey to life; more so in slow motion scenes. The puppeteers are so skilled and talented that after a while you don't notice them anymore. You will believe that Joey and his friends are real live horses.

It is things like this that sets War Horse apart from other plays and why this play has won 5 Tony Awards including Best Play! 

War Horse is now playing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver until September 29th. Tickets are on sale now and are available by calling 1-855-985-5000 or online. Tickets start at $35.00 plus applicable service fees. 

Visit Broadway Across Canada for more information.

Disclosure: I received tickets to the show from Broadway Across Canada to review. No other compensation was received. The opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own and have not been influenced in any other way.

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1 comment:

Meghan Cardoza said...

winning Nathanael Matanick Film ReMoved Screened for the first time and won the
grand prize of Best film and an up to 1 million dollar feature film budget at
the 168 Film Festival in Los Angeles August 10th , 2013