Theatre Review: War Horse

◆ Originally written by Michael Morpurgo
◆ Seen October 2014
◆ Dutch version
◆ Purchase the book: The Book Depository

The theatre adaption of War Horse is based on the children's book of the same name written by Michael Morpurgo. We weren't allowed to take pictures during the show so I can't illustrate, but believe me when I say that it was a true wonder to experience. If you have the chance to see the theatre adaption, wherever you are, take it. You won't regret it!

My favorite thing about the entire production was without a doubt the 'puppets'. I have enacted with horses for as long as I can remember so I know how they behave, I recognize all their little quirks. I was therefore absolutely mesmerized how real Joey and Topthorn looked. It was in the way they moved their heads, the ever changing position of the ears, the shaking of the tail, the way the flanks moved up and down as if they were breathing, it was even in the way they sniffed and whinnied. It was obvious too that research had gone into the way a horse moves as a foal and as an adult, the horses behave around other horses and humans, even the way they fight. All these little details made it so believable that I at some point nearly forgot that there were people in the puppet who made the movements. In addition, the horses were simply beautifully constructed.

It's been a while since I've last read War Horse but as far as I could tell they followed the storyline pretty much perfectly. Every character present in the book got some stage time and no storylines were left out. We were able to follow Joey from beginning until the very end. One thing I loved in particular was the way the director chose to portray Joey's change from foal to grown-up. One moment you see a tiny horse running around, the next this gigantic horse leaps out with a rider on top, accompanied by bright light. That particular scene was brilliant and literally made my heart beat faster.

The storyline was greatly enhanced by the acting (and singing). I had to blink back tears at the dreaded scene with Topthorn near the end. It is a sad scene in itself, but the emotion the actors managed to convey not only in that scene, but in the entire production made it all come to life. Their acting felt quite natural and not over the top at all. I liked the little bouts of comic relief, especially provided by Albert's mother (and the goose) and Albert himself. Furthermore, I loved how many of the songs actually told part of the story.

Last but not least, I thought it was a real skill how everyone managed to make the book come alive with the use of so little props. I believe it mainly consisted of a door, some buckets and brushes, bridles, a plough, a cart, guns, and a makeshift canon and tank. The clothes - especially the military uniforms - seemed very realistic and portrayed the right spirit of time. With the way War Horse was portrayed in its entirety, it was so easy to imagine everything else that was not present. It was that good.

In all honesty, if I could, I would go again this week. I loved every second of watching the theatre production and think it is a great adaption of the book and movie.

5 stars because:
✓Accurate portrayal of the book
✓Incredibly realistic and beautiful puppets
✓Great acting and singing
✓ Ability to portray story with very little props. 

Brilliant Bookshelf

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