Friendship comes in many forms. How far would you go to save someone you love? War Horse proves that near or far, the bond between friends can never be severed. This emotionally-moving theatrical experience successfully captures the true beauty of friendship through the heartwarming tale of a boy’s tenacious loyalty toward his beloved horse. Gracing the stage at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, having won five Tony Awards, this highly-praised show is one that you’ll want to see over and over again.
Based on a children’s book by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse tells the tale of a poor Devon farm boy Albert Narracott (Andrew Durand) who raises and befriends a wild spirited horse he calls Joey. However, in a cruel turn of events, Albert’s drunken father, burdened by financial strain, sells Joey to the army. A devastated, yet determined Albert sets out in search for his horse amidst the chaos of World War I and he’ll stop at nothing till he is reunited with Joey.
Told through the perspective of various characters, War Horse is a realistic look at not only the importance of camaraderie, but the evils of war. The audience is introduced to various well-developed characters and gradually learns how each has been affected by the war. You sympathize for Albert’s confused, shell-shocked cousin Billy (Stephen James Anthony) who is pressured to fight by his pompous war-veteran father. You feel for the kind-hearted German captain Friedrich Muller (David Lansbury) who deserts his company, disillusioned by the violence of warfare. And you smile at the pure innocence of little French girl Emilie (Madeliene Rose Yen), whose home is taken over by German soldiers.
We are even touched by the horses who whinny and prance around the stage as realistic puppets. War Horse has been extolled for its brilliant puppetry and ingenious staging. The horses are truly brought to life. They are gorgeous large puppets, the size of real horses. Each operated by three puppeteers, Joey and the horses move, act, and even sound true to life. They have their own unique personalities that the audience comes to love by the end of the show. Watching the bond between puppets and actors, you soon forget that the horses aren’t real!
Though not a musical, War Horse uses a lot of music and sound to create a masterpiece. The story is heavily told by a song woman (Kate Pfaffl). The earthy and soulful tone of her voice helps to relay the beautiful folk songs that are sung throughout the play. War is recreated on stage with the sounds of gunshots and explosions. Many are a bit unexpected and leave the audience trembling in their seats. This helps to add to the ambiance of war, causing viewers to feel a part of the battle as well.
War Horse is a very inspirational play. It hits at heartstrings with its message about loyalty and trust. As we watch Albert face and overcome various hardships to find his horse, we realize that true friendship means never giving up on one another. It’s an everlasting support and connection.
Photo from London Theatre Direct