War Horse at New London Theatre

Benedict Cumberbatch (the new Sherlock) will be featured in Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of War Horse (source). Today, the play is under the limelight again: in an Observer article, it is revealed that racism and bullying plague the production backstage. Horrible.

My review of the play (below) was written on 11th June, 2009.

Tonight we saw the National Theatre’s production of War Horse on the West End at the New London Theatre. The play was based on a children’s book of the same name by the former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo and adapted by Nick Stafford. Although a play for families, the production worked well as adult entertainment. The stars of the show were the puppets, especially two extremely life-like horses, Joey and Topthorn.

The story is about Albert Narracott and his horse, Joey. Young Albert trains Joey from a colt only to lose him when his father sells him to the British army in the First World War. The rest of the story recounts Joey’s experience in the war, first serving as a mount for a British officer and then as a friend of a sympathetic German soldier Friedrich Müller. At the same time, Albert becomes a British soldier (at the age of 16) so he can find Joey. In the end, master and horse are reunited. If the play was somewhat sentimental at times, the ingenuity of the puppets, set design (bare but effective), music (especially the folk songs) and Rae Smith‘s projected drawings more than made up for it.

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