War Horse's fitting premiere at a rehooved Theatre Royal
Theatre Royal Plymouth
Review by Lee Trewhela
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EVERYONE I know who’s seen the National Theatre production in London raves about War Horse.
I wanted to deride, rather than ride, those puppet horses. I wanted to sneer at the emotional puppet masters cynically forcing the tears.
But I can’t – the only thing I will criticise is the incessant folk singing, but that’s purely subjective as I perspire the moment someone starts singing in THAT voice. And, you know what, even that was done with aplomb as an effective plot device.
Yes, War Horse is as good as they all say.
Michael Morpurgo must be rubbing his hands with glee – as the creative team at the National have taken a good book and turned it into a dramatic masterpiece.
Those of us who haven’t had the chance to see the story of Joey’s journey from Devon farm to French trench now have the chance thanks to a national tour, which started, fittingly, at Plymouth’s rehooved Theatre Royal.
You know about the horses, but, my God, seeing them on stage, they aren’t just “puppets” ... within minutes any Muffin the Mule thoughts are roundly banished.
They breathe, whinny, shiver, neigh, nudge and run like the real thing – this is as much down to the actors who control the creatures as the constructions themselves.
They are the stars – though the ensemble of humans have to be congratulated from Lee Armstrong’s Albert Narracott to Martin Wenner’s Friedrich Müller, demonstrating the hurt and humanity on both sides during the First World War.
The rent in the sky – affectively a cinematic backdrop – is a brilliant piece of stage design, while some of the set pieces are unforgettable; the slo-mo battle scene, for example.
My single tear during the devastating climax demonstrated how successful the show was.
If I’d actually watched the action, rather than concentrating on a tiny bit of backdrop in a bid to staunch the emotion, it would have been an embarrassing deluge.