On Wednesday 11th March 2020, I went to the Sydney Lyric at The Star Casino and Entertainment Complex to see The National Theatre of Great Britain production of War Horse. It was stage play adaptation of the 1982 novel written by Michael Morpurgo which has also been made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston (Marvel Comic Book fans will know them as Doctor Strange and Loki respectively).
War Horse is an epic tale of courage, bravery, loyalty and friendship told with twenty giant, towering, wooden puppet horses supplied by the South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company. War Horse has been seen by over 8 million people worldwide, in 98 cities across 12 countries, winning more than 25 international awards with Her Majesty the Queen’s seal of approval.
War Horse is set in the 1910’s. A young farm boy named Albert Narracott (portrayed by Scott Miller) befriends and bonds with a young colt named Joey after his father Arthur (portrayed by Arthur Ilkley) wins him at an auction against his brother Ted (portrayed by Colin Connor). This is much to the disappointment of Arthur’s wife Rose (portrayed by Jo Castleton), who was angry at him for using their mortgage money to win the horse.
After Joey successfully ploughed the farm in a bet proposed by Ned and following much encouragement and trust from Albert, all is going completely well for the two. That is until that fateful day in 1914, when Germany declared war on France and Ted makes the heartbreaking decision to sell Joey to the Army, much to Albert’s sadness. However, Albert makes a vow that he will return for him when the war ends.
Albert later runs off from the farm in order to join the army and to be reunited with his beloved horse.
The majority of the play consists of Joey’s experience of working in the army, bonding with Topthorn, a black military horse who becomes Joey’s acquaintance. Together, they venture through the hellish and brutal landscapes and events of the First World War in the war-torn country of France such as the Battle of the Somme. The play also showed how much devastating impact the First World War had on the soldiers and their families such as the Narracott family.
The music in the play fits the mood of Joey’s plight in the war with its panicky, dramatic connotations, fitting the mood of the emotional scenes as well as the singing narrator (portrayed by folk singer Ben Murray), who tells the main story before and during the scenes with his stunning vocals.
The entire play moved me to tears, with a majority of scenes that I won’t specify as they are spoilers, unless you’ve read the book or watched the movie. They are beautifully monumental and faithful.
War Horse is a majestic story told from beginning, middle and end with an ensemble of various puppet horses and animals. Many critics call it “the theatre event of the decade” and it shows. I definitely recommend seeing this if you enjoy epic stories that will be told in years to come.
Kane, Leisure Links participant