Wednesday 23 October 2019

Puppetry magic of daring War Horse

Anne Marie Scanlon looks forward to a spectacular production of 'War Horse' which is coming soon to Dublin

War Horse sold out its run in 2009, don't miss it this time
War Horse sold out its run in 2009, don't miss it this time

On the face of it, War Horse sounds like an odd premise for a stage show, particularly for an Irish audience. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, it tells the story of Joey (a horse who is conscripted as part of the cavalry to fight on the British side in the 1914-18 World War), Albert (his original owner who enlists in order to find him) - and the personal and global impact of what was then called The Great War.

However this UK National Theatre Production, which returns to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre from April 10-27 as part of its 10th anniversary tour, is more than the sum of its many different parts - not least the amazing puppetry provided by Handspring Puppet Company.

Although the scale of the production is vast, with a huge cast and several life-size puppet horses, the sets are kept to a minimum as directors Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris utilise light and sound to marvellous effect.

The opening scenes, at a rural auction, although set in Devon, could be anywhere in Ireland and I couldn't help being put in mind of John B Keane's The Field. The accents will all sound familiar to an Irish audience as the rhythm of speech is highly reminiscent of many regional Irish accents. The music too, which is heavy on the 'squeeze box' although original to the play, seems hauntingly familiar.

In War Horse the auction showcases the intense rivalry between two brothers as they keep upping the ante on the foal they both want. Again, the powerful love of horses is something an Irish audience will easily identify with.

Joey, the horse, though a puppet, is a strong, genuinely believable and utterly sympathetic character. It is nothing short of magic the way the puppeteers become invisible whilst remaining in plain sight.

WAR HORSE will run from 10-27 April 2019 at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Tickets from €21.00 are on sale now from Ticketmaster and for more see www.bordgá

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