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By midlandsmovies, Sep 19 2019 10:39AM



War Horse at Curve is a thrilling tale of emotion and intensity


War Horse at Curve - Wed 18 Sep to Sat 12 Oct


War Horse is a play based on the book of the same name by writer Michael Morpurgo, adapted for stage by Nick Stafford. And now after an 8 record-record breaking years in London’s West End and having played in 11 countries around the world to over 7 million people, the National Theatre’s acclaimed play came to Curve last night.


If you don’t already know one of the main draws to the various productions are the amazing life-size horse puppets by the Handspring Puppet Company and unlike the novel, whose story is told through the horse's viewpoint, the narrative follows a young boy’s efforts to be reunited with his beloved horse from his childhood.


Movie-wise of course it was adapted again, this time for film by the legendary director Steven Spielberg. With influences from both the novel and the stage play, the 2011 movie was nominated for 6 Academy Awards and starred Jeremy Irvine (in his film acting debut), Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Tom Huddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Marsan & many more in an amazing group cast. The film also has a small Midlands connection with parts being filmed on location at Castle Combe in Wiltshire.


Set around the First World War, War Horse tells of the journey of a horse (Joey) who is raised by British teenager Albert and after being bought by the Army, leads him to encounter numerous individuals and owners throughout Europe whilst the tragedies of war happen around him.


In this version we gallop headlong into events as Joey is bought at auction and forms a bond with young Albert (played with gusto by Scott Miller). And it’s here where the fantastic stage show comes to life by the extraordinary puppeteers. With two actors in the body and one for the head, the masterful demonstration of the art brought real life to the horses on stage. And when the amazing lighting was just right, you’d swear that were real. They were simply that good.


As the horse grows and is eventually sold under Albert’s nose into the military by his debt-ridden father, the stage becomes a brooding playground of war-time imagery. Smoke billows, searchlights cross no-man’s land and a fantastic understated score permeates scenes throughout the show and gives the play a movie-like feel.


A flash of an old photo camera pauses the action like a cinematic freeze-frame and a cavalry charge before the interval had unbelievable slow-motion explosions and horses stopping mid-air. Gunshots too had the audience bolting from their seats in fear, whist clever use of lighting and props were used like movie editing transitions to keep the story flowing.


As well as the emotional impact of the terrible consequences of war on humans and animals, there are moments of lightness. A puppet goose steals the show early-on with its amusing honk and comical conversations in the trench about the “girls back home” are clichéd but were touching and done with a real honesty.


The characterisation in general is quite broad but this allows space for you to enjoy and attach yourself emotionally to the animals – especially later on as an audible gasp was heard from the audience as one of the horses was whipped by an angry German soldier.


As we cantered our way to the show’s conclusion, the emotional intensity increases whilst reining in the sentimentality. And the horrors of war, cruelty, friendship and the relationship between humans and animals are all explored in an expressive, and impressive, final few scenes.


So strap yourself in the saddle, the touching tale of War Horse harnesses an emotional intensity that makes it simply the best touring production around right now and demands to be seen.


Michael Sales


War Horse at Curve - Wed 18 Sep to Sat 12 Oct

The show contains loud sound effects, gunfire, flashing lights and strobe lighting.

Running time: 2hrs 40mins incl. 20 min interval

Age Recommendation: 10+

Tickets £57 – £10


ACCESS PERFORMANCES

Captioned: Sat 28 Sep, 2.15pm

Signed: Tue 1 Oct, 7.30pm

Audio–Described: Fri 4 Oct, 7.30pm

Touch Tour: Fri 4 Oct, 5.30pm


AFTERSHOW DISCUSSION

Thu 26 Sep, 7.30pm


Credits

Book by Michael Morpurgo

Adapted by Nick Stafford

In association with Handspring Puppet Company

Directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris


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