18 June 19 July 2014
Reviewed by Lee-Anne McCarthy
I’m a definite happy go lucky theatre goer my usual love being the sing along type production of light, easy viewing often old school shows. So being asked to review War Horse was something I was excited but daunted about as it was something completely outside of my comfort zone. I’d heard so many reviews but decided to go in with an open mind to make my own judgements.
War Horse tells the story of some of the most unsung heroes of the First World War, the beautiful cavalry horses and their riders. In the story the young Albert Narracott acquires a beautiful horse called Joey. It’s almost a love story between horse and boy growing up together sharing moments of calm, excitement and even pure unconditional love. However the call of war then so cruelly rips them apart and at just 16 years of age Albert is unable to follow his best friend. I felt like I went on an amazing journey with Albert however despite the wonderful performance from Lee Armstrong those members of the cast that really stole the show were most definitely the majestic and magnificent puppeted horses; Joey and Topthorn. Despite being very obviously manipulated by three incredibly talented puppeteers, each of the horses were phenomenal. In every scene it felt like both Joey and Topthorn were absolutely real. Every intricate movement of these splendid beasts were present even down to the pounding fearful heart when the horses awaited the fateful battlefield. I have absolute admiration for the incredible artistry of the puppeteers. These cast members truly make this show great.
The set of the show was simple yet extremely effective allowing the audience to fill in the gaps. I was impressed with the banner running along the back of the set that was shaped much like a torn page of a sketch book. Throughout the show it depicted, on this banner, the scenes of war. The lighting and sound effects during the production had me sat on the edge of my seat and often jumping in fearful surprise. The music by Adrian Sutton was stunning. It really set the mood and tone of the whole production.
I have read the book and I did wonder if the production team could really have done Michael Morpurgo justice and I desperately hoped they had not manipulated the beautiful story beyond recognition. All these concerns were completely unfounded. The stage show like the book is completely mesmerising and something that I’m sure Morpurgo is incredibly proud of. The stage production brought to life many incredible moments throughout the story. There were times of humour, of sadness, of joy even those of complete devastation.
War Horse left me completely spellbound. I was awestruck by the entire show from beginning to end. The production, the crew, most amazing puppetry and set took my breath away. In this centenary year of the Great War this production brings to life events that many of us couldn’t even begin imagine.
I would recommend this show to everyone. An inspired love and coming of age story that was done more than justice by the fantastic and beautiful stage production. I give this production a wonderful 5 out of 5.
Tickets cost from £20 to £60 (plus £1.50 booking fee).
War Horse is at the Wales Millennium Centre until 19 July 2014. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 029 2063 6464.
Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Place, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5AL | 029 2063 6464