War Horse

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War Horse: The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (Wednesday 30th May, 2018)

More than a decade after its stunning theatrical debut, War Horse continues to thrill audiences as both spectacular theatre and a moving condemnation of the heartless cruelty of war.

The essential spirit of Michael Morpurgo’s original story about the devastation of the Great War told through the ordeal of country boy Albert Narracott and his beloved horse Joey is beautifully enhanced by this extraordinary National Theatre production. Skilfully adapated by Nick Stafford, it features wonderfully constructed puppet-horses from the award-winning Handspring Company. They are extraordinary creatures brought to life by their oprators with incredible movement and choreography.

Directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, this heart-rending drama finds Albert signing up as an underage soldier and leaving the only life he knows in rural Devon to head for the battlefields of the Western Front. His mission is to find Joey who has been sold to the Army as a war horse by his drunken father. 

The living hell that greets him is almost beyond comprehension as, swords drawn, the cavalry charge hopelessly into an endless barrage of enemy machine gun fire.  Men and horses lie torn to shreds amid the mud and the blood and razor-wire but somehow Albert and Joey survive.

War Horse is a powerful, sweeping drama, superbly staged with nuanced work from a skilful ensemble cast. Thomas Dennis as Albert evokes the enthusiasm and joyful naivety of youth gradually replaced by a world-weary sadness, desperation and determination as he searches for the horse that he has raised since it was a foal. 

By the time they  find each other there isn’t a dry eye in the house. War Horse is about the tragedy of war, the mindless brutality of battle, the indiscriminate lottery of fate and those special people who have an intuitive, almost telepathic, communication with animals. One hundred years on from the war that was supposed to end all wars it’s a timely reminder of the cost of such pointless and bitter conflict.  

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2018