10 January 2016

National Theatre's 'War Horse'


Hello! It's been a while, hasn't it?! The last time I blogged was (I believe) late November, and since then I just haven't found the time nor the motivation to write anything! Today, however, I'm back with a lovely little review for you, all about something I've wanted to see for a VERY long time!

My obsession with War Horse started young - (I was a die-hard Michael Morpurgo fan in about Year 4!) Then, somebody put a poster up in my school library about the London production - at the time, I didn't really know what it was - I just knew that one of my favourite books had been turned into a play! I told my mum, and we looked at tickets online, etc, but never actually got around to going to see it!

Fast forward to September 2015, when I (still not having seen the show), saw that it was closing, and made it my mission to see it before March 12th. Long story short, we actually booked tickets this time, so on New Years Day we hopped on a train to London and saw the show that I'd been waiting 6 years to see!

The first thing I feel I need to mention, is the fact that there is a huge screen across the back of the stage, in the shape of (what seems to be) a ripped piece of paper. Now, I absolutely hate screens in theatres - end of. I think they look tacky and cheap, and they take away from what's going on onstage.
However...
War Horse is the exception. It didn't look tacky in the slightest, and it actually added to the performance rather than serving as a distraction! I loved the idea of having the date on there occasionally, just to remind you whereabouts in the war you were, and I loved the fact it changed depending on the setting and mood of the scene.

Now for what I'm sure you actually want to hear about: The puppets! The puppets are 'provided' by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa, and are quite clearly one of the best things about the play. If you've seen the show, then you'll know what I mean when I say it is difficult to explain just how real they look, at the same time s looking very abstract and representing the narrative - for example, when 2 horses are shown to be dying, they are a pale grey colour, the material which is usually beautifully woven into the other puppets' structures is loose and falling off, and some of them are even missing legs or sections of the horse. The image I've just put in your head doesn't really sound like a real horse, does it? But on stage, the movements (or lack thereof) completely brings them to life!

When I originally heard about the show, I didn't even consider the fact that the horse noises might be made by humans, onstage - I just assumed they would be pre-recorded! They are, in fact, done live, as I discovered when I met Shaun McCourt, (who, with all due respect, plays Joey's back end!) I asked Shaun if they had any unusual pre-show rituals or routines, and he said (and I quote!) "We don't have any rituals as such... I mean, we make lots of horse noises! It's kind of good to practice before the show!"

Something I never realised about War Horse was the amount of singing involved - Ben Murray, who was the main 'singer' when I saw it, was absolutely incredible, as were the whole company!

The last thing I have to mention is the goose. I actually "met" the goose puppet at the West End Bake Off  - he was just wandering around the Theatre Cafe and the Churchyard! The goose is (in my opinion) the funniest part of the entire show, and reinforces what Mumma Jenks always says - "there is no such thing as a small role!"

War Horse closes on March 12th, so if you can I would recommend you beg, borrow or steal a ticket!


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