Director: Marianne Elliott, Tom Morris
Writer: Nick Stafford
Based on: Michael Morpurgo‘s novel
Cast: Sion Daniel Young, Alex Avery, Josie Walker, Ian Shaw, Jack Sandle, Steve North
[Here’s my review of the movie version.]
In a drunken act of stupidity, Albert’s (Sion Daniel Young) father (Steve North) buys a horse. Unfortunately they can’t actually afford it. But Albert begs until his mother (Josie Walker) allows him to keep Joey and together they find a way. That is, until war breaks out and Joey is bought by Captain Nicholls (Alex Avery) and shipped off to war. Will Joey and Albert ever find each other again?
After the movie version I was sceptic about the play. But I wanted to see it anyways because of the puppets. Thankfully, the play has more going for it than the film, even if it did have its lengths.
The story of War Horse is one that is made of 95% kitsch and 5% tear-jerking. Which is not a bad thing, in itself. When done right, it’s a wonderfully cathartic experience to go through. The movie didn’t manage that for me, but the play did. [Another thing where the play beat the movie for me: they had French dialogue in French and German dialogue in German. That they didn’t find native speakers for the roles shall be more than forgiven.]
Despite that, I did feel that it was a little long (even though it was/felt so much shorter than the film!). If they had managed to cut another half hour or so, it probably would have been better for me.
As long as they didn’t cut away from the horses. Those puppets were astounding, in their look and technology. But even better was the way they were handled and moved. I have never seen a more accurate way of showing horses. Sometimes it felt like not even actual horses would be that horse-y. It was a joy to watch. (That and the goose which was a scene stealer if ever I saw one.)
The rest of the production though wasn’t my cup of tea. The singing (and the voiceless scenes put to the singing) got a little old and it was generally way too loud, especially when it came to the war effects (might have been due to the cinema I saw this at but the dialogues were not too loud, so I’m leaning toward the production itself). The video installation parts were a little too much – I barely could pay attention to them at all and as such they were more of a distraction than anything else.
But damn, those puppets!
Summarizing: Worth it for the puppets. Totally and honestly.