Saturday 20 January 2018

Theatre Review: War Horse a fitting tribute to heroes

HORSE POWER: The play has been seen by four million people worldwide since 2007
HORSE POWER: The play has been seen by four million people worldwide since 2007

Mia Collins

WAR Horse had its opening night in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre on Wednesday. Based on the book by children's novelist Michael Morpurgo, and adapted for stage by Nick Stafford, it tells the story of the First World War through the eyes of a very special horse, Joey.

The audience first meets Joey when he is a young foal, and watches him transform (literally) into a sturdy, well-built stallion. The audience is transported, along with Joey, who is taken from his owner and sold to a yeomanry cavalry division.

He is shipped off to France, first serving alongside the British army and then, after being captured, finds himself on the German side, before ultimately ending up wounded and wandering in no-man's-land.

Throughout the whole play, Joey is pursued by his young master, Albert (played by Lee Armstrong) who is so desperate to find him that he runs away and enlists at the age of 16.

We follow young Albert's journey, as he is consumed with the sole purpose of finding his beloved horse in the midst of the bloodshed of the trenches.

What marks the onstage production of War Horse an inspirational piece of performance are the puppets which play the horses. Immediately the audience becomes totally immersed within the story, allowing these puppets to etch themselves deeply into your soul.

The animated animals come alive. Their operators fade into the background and, although you know they're there, each horse has personality and is so filled with emotion that it transcends the physical.

Coming to Dublin 100 years after the start of the Great War, the National Theatre production, in association with the Handspring Puppet Company, is a fitting testament to enduring bravery, both human and equine.

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