Believe the hype – this is a delight. Moving and visually spectacular, with simple, effective comedy, the recent accolades at the Tony’s must have been well deserved. Time doesn’t appear to have tempered this gem of modern British theatre.
It was difficult to know what to expect coming to War Horse as a rookie. Of course the horse puppets were going to be amazing – we’ve all seen them on the telly and heard them unreservedly praised for donkey’s years (excuse the pun). I also had a sneaking suspicion that an equine may become involved in combat… Yet, for a show with an instantly recognisable image, that sends a huge range of those who have seen it into fits of expressive admiration, very little extra information had seeped its way out to me. Which left me with a great new discovery – it’s nothing but a tale of a friendship between man and beast amongst the dual chaos of World War One and family life, yet all the cliches apply here, namely: “the simple ones are the best”, and “it’s how you tell’em”. Wonderful.
There was huge scope for me to nit-pick here. I’m a history graduate and spent most of my teenage summers working at a stables in the Welsh mountains. I was almost certain that a WWI drama couldn’t help but bring out the hackneyed, over-told stories of the Christmas football match between the Brits and the Germans in 1914,or that the horses just wouldn’t ‘feel’ right. Not to mention that I expected a predictable ending (I’m studying for exams at the moment, which is making me rather cynical) – yet War Horse was impressive on every level. It remained entirely focussed on the central storyline, showcased an entirely convincing set of horses and even managed to incorporate some comedy – partly via a push-along goose on wheels. I kid you not.
Overall, I can’t be controversial and disagree with public opinion on this one. If you haven’t yet, hurry on down to the New London Theatre – and if anyone would like to invite me to see the new production at the Lincoln Centre, I would be more than happy to oblige. Great theatre.