Review: War Horse

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about War Horse’s recent interview with Michael Morpurgo, the author of the book War Horse. I was then invited to go down to London and watch the show and what an experience that was.

I’d previously seen the show at the Birmingham Hippodrome a few years ago when it was on tour, I really enjoyed the show but I didn’t fall in love with it. However when I saw it earlier this week at the New London Theatre in the West End, I was absolutely moved to tears.

The New London Theatre is a stunning theatre that is quite small and creates an intimate setting in which the audience feel like they are really involved in the performance. Throughout the show the actors walk through the audience, the action happens around you which really allowed me to connect with the characters and the show.

It’s a beautiful yet heart wrenching story set in the first world war about a young boy named Albert who receives a horse named Joey and he forms an unbreakable bond and friendship with Joey. As the war continues, Albert is desperate to be reunited with Joey so he enlists in the army despite being underage. After fighting in treacherous conditions and being temporarily blinded by gas, he ends up in an army hospital.

After being a hunter horse for both the British and German side, Joey is found entangled in barbed wire and stranded in no mans land. A British soldier stumbles across him and leads him over to the army hospital to be treated.

I wrote in my previous post about the tear-jerking scene in the book when Albert, despite being temporarily blind, recognises Joey in the hospital and they are reunited. Although this brought a tear to my eye during the play, it was nothing compared to the heart warming and heavily emotional final scene when Albert returns home with Joey.

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The puppetry in the show is unbelievable, the craftsmanship that has gone into creating the horse and the choreography of the movement is breathtaking. Within seconds I had forgotten that the horse wasn’t real, and the devotion young Albert has for Joey creates highly convincing chemistry that is felt by the entire audience.

Albert was played by James Backway and his performance was impeccable. He portrayed the naivety of the character excellently and he exuded passion, his commitment to the role was evident throughout the whole performance and the relationship with the horse meant that during the final scene there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Another stunning performance came from Jayne McKenna who played Rose, Albert’s mother. I found her character engaging and her performance was faultless as it showed a true connection to the emotions she depicted during the entirety of the show.

A lot happened during the show but the storytelling element of it was done extremely well. The simplicity of the set and costumes allowed the story to be at the heart of the production. Despite the fact the show has been running for so long, it still seemed so fresh.

War Horse is moving, emotional and highly poignant. It is thought provoking as it displays the realities of war and what the men, women and horses had to endure. It’s a story of love, friendship and family and the sentimental nature of the horse is uplifting as he fights against all odds to survive. War Horse is bound to bring a tear to your eye and it’s a show that will always hold a special place in my heart.

War Horse is currently on at The New London Theatre and tickets can be found here.

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