I’m going to begin this review of the eagerly anticipated War Horse at the Regent Theatre in Stoke with this:
(if that doesn’t make you want to book tickets already, then let me continue…)
War Horse opened on Wednesday 25th September at the Regent Theatre in Stoke to mark the beginning of a three week run of the West End phenomenon. Adapted from the childrens novel by Michael Morpurgo of the same name which was released in 1982, the stage production of War Horse is touring the UK and Ireland. Morpurgo said that Nick Stafford “must be mad” for adapting his novel into a stageshow but War Horse has been tremendously successful and has been in situe on the West End since 2009, as well as having shows on Broadway and around the world.
War Horse is the story of Albert (played by Peter Ash) a farm boy and his beloved horse Joey who he cares for from a young foal. The pair are inseperable until World War I begins and Joey is sold to the Cavalry by Alberts father and then shipped to France. Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to find him and bring him home.
I was told to take tissues to the show, foolishly I didn’t and I found myself patting tears dry which rolled down my cheeks during the first act.
One of the main attractions of War Horse is the life size puppets which portray not only Joey but other horses in the show. When I say puppets I don’t mean like Sesame Street, the life size horse puppets are designed by Handspring Puppet Company from South Africa and take 8 months for each to be built.
To bring a “puppet” to life on stage to represent a living, breathing horse may seem an impossible task but through clever horse choreography (by Toby Sedgwick) and the skill of three pupateers (who make up the head, heart and hind) who do an incredible job of making Joey as realistic as possible. The twitch of an ear, a snort, a gallop… its these small details which cause you to see past the puppet exterior and see Joey as a real life horse.
When a stage show absorbs you and you find yourself lost completely within a performance, the realms of entertainment become magical and for me that is exactly what War Horse is, magical. I, along with the rest of the audience was enthralled from the moment the first act began and left the auditorium on the interval with my heart in my throat.
From the tear jerking storyline, the realistic portrayal of equestrine on stage, the spine tingling scenes from within the trenches… everything about War Horse makes it utter perfection and a pleasure (if not a teary pleasure) to watch.
The opening night came to a close to a rapturous standing ovation. My eyes were smarting with tears and my palms stung from clapping but each and every actor on the stage was deserving of it for the absolutely outstanding performance given.
War Horse will be showing at Regent Theatre until the 11th October. Tickets are available to book online (but are quite limited!).