Culture Street

Theatre

War Horse is compelling theatre

On March 26, 2013

By Sophia Whitfield

Based on Michael Morpurgo’s book, War Horse, the stage show is visually spectacular.

Set during World War I, the story revolves around young Albert and his horse Joey. Albert’s drunken father inadvertently ends up buying Joey to outdo his prosperous brother. Albert has grown fond of Joey only to discover that his father has sold him to the cavalry. Joey has been shipped to France where he is ridden and cared for by Captain Nicholls.

A 16-year-old devastated Albert leaves home to sign up, masquerading as a 19-year-old, in search of his beloved horse Joey.

At the heart of this show are life size puppets made out of steel, leather and aircraft cables that bring the animals to life particularly the two horses, Joey and Topthorn. Created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, these dynamic puppets guided by the all Australian cast, bring the emotion of the story to the fore as they manoeuvre the horses, charging into battle across the stage.

Three actors guide the horse, the head, the heart and the hind, in a magical representation of Joey and fellow horse Topthorn. Actors ride the horses across the stage as they go to war with the enemy. Three puppeteers work in unison to create the illusion of the horse.

The stage is sparse except for a 25 metre wide projection screen that depicts a page ripped from Captain Nicholls’ sketchbook. The screen becomes a landscape, a floating cloud, a horizon or a battlefield.

Extraordinarily compelling, this production will pull on the heartstrings. It is theatre as we have never seen it before.

War Horse is currently playing at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney until 30 June.

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