This week I had the privilege of seeing the National Theatre's production of War Horse, adapted from the novel of the same name by former Children's Laureate, Michael Morpurgo. A theatrical tour de force, it tells the story of Joey, the beloved horse of young Devonshire lad, Albert Narracott. Without Albert's knowledge and against his wishes, Joey is sold to a Yeomanry Cavalry Division at the outbreak of the First World War. He is shipped to France to serve first the British and then, following the death of his rider, the Germans, before eventually ending up injured and alone in No Man's Land. Albert, though underage, follows his treasured animal out to France and searches for him through the muddy trenches and bloody years.
The puppetry that brings both Joey and a number of other horses to life is nothing short of incredible - it takes very little time to forget that there are three people operating each full-sized animal, controlling every twitch of their ears or toss of their mane, each flick of their tails or shudder of muscle – and the intense bond between man and animal is exquisitely portrayed and utterly believable. The haunting folk music and clever backdrop – which at one point is swallowed by the blood of the fallen – heighten the emotion and, together with the moments of violence and thunder, beautifully evoke and underline the terrible destruction and futility of the war.
Magnificent, moving and masterful: this is theatre for all ages. The present run has already sold out, but, due to popular demand, War Horse will apparently be back at the National in the Autumn. I cannot recommend it highly enough – get your tickets now!
British writer, director, producer and actor. Artistic Director of Shadow Road Productions (www.shadowroad.com), Fireside Folktales (www.firesidefolktales.com) and Secret Storytellers (www.secretstorytellers.co.uk). Festival Director of mixed arts mental health awareness festival UNBROKEN (www.unbrokenfest.com), and professional member of Stage Directors UK, the Society of Authors, and the Society of Children's Writers & Illustrators.
Thursday, 17 January 2008
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It really, really was. :-)
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