War Horse is the perfect theatrical experience
Theatre Royal, Plymouth
As you would expect from the National Theatre, War Horse is a magical and moving theatrical experience merging the simple with the epic, the dramatic with the comic in a substantial performance which moves the audience to tears... and its feet.
It is as near-perfect a piece of theatre as you are ever likely to see.
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Its success comes from many quarters. Firstly it's the original story of Devon farmer's son Albert and his love for the horse his father squanders the mortgage money on in an auction against his estranged brother.
Devon author Michael Morpurgo's book takes the horse, Joey, and his young master to the trenches of the First World War where there is heroism, hatred and compassion against a backdrop of almost relentless bombing and shooting.
It's a powerful story and loses nothing in its translation to the stage. If anything, making this a shared experience only adds to the emotion.
War Horse is a brilliantly executed stage play. It takes an open space and transforms it with spot-on lighting and sound (Paule Constable and Christopher Shutt) and a wonderful score by Adrian Sutton with songs by John Tams.
Above the action, simple animation takes you from birds flying through the countryside air to shrapnel exploding across the battlefield. It's clever, but not overused, with charming pencil drawings from kind Captain Nicholls being brought to life.
And the horses, oh the horses. I'm reluctant to call them puppets, even though it takes three people to move Joey and Topthorn, because these are living, breathing, twitching, galloping horses.
War Horse is an emotional journey for the audience and the auditorium had a real buzz about it with everyone eager to experience this phenomenon (seen by nearly 5 million people worldwide) for themselves.
No individual praise is necessary – the ensemble cast of more than 30 performers are superb. This is what the theatre is all about...