The War Horse

War Horse: The tale of a World War One Hero

A life sized horse puppet canters onto the stage of London’s National Theatre. The puppeteers have trouble restraining it as it seems to have a will of its own. Joey, this amazing equine creation was made by the South African Handspring Puppet Company from steel, leather and aircraft cables.He is the star of War Horse, a stage show set during World War One.

War Horse is based on a novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo, British children’s laureate. It was adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford and became one of most popular shows of the decade in London, New York and Australia. Unfortunately it hasn’t made it to New Zealand. But the filmed version (of a superb performance by London’s National Theatre) can be seen here in movie theatres now. 

This year, 2014, marks the centenary of the beginning of World War One and many a story will be told of the suffering and bravery of men who went out to war. But horses, the unsung heroes who also played a valuable role, will barely get a mention. 

In total one million horses left Britain for the Western Front. They hauled guns, carried troops to the front, brought the wounded back home and carried supplies and ammunition. Only 60,000 survived. The others were caught up in murderous artillery fire, died from exposure, hunger, fatigue or illness. New Zealand sent 10,000 horses to join in the war effort. Of these just four came home. This show pays tribute to these horses, their heroism and courage.

War Horse tells the story of a farm horse called Joey who belonged to a young Devonshire lad called Albert. When his strapped for cash father sold the horse to the Army for one hundred pounds Albert was devastated. The only way he could trace his beloved horse and be reunited with him was through joining the army. He was just sixteen but through lying about his age he managed to enlist.  Then he went on an epic and dangerous mission to search for his horse.

Meanwhile Joey was shipped off to France and went on his own terrifying journey to the Western Front. Through his eyes we see the horrors and cruelty of war. But we also experience the love which soldiers had for their steeds. 

When he is eventually turned over to the Germans his new master also treats him with affection. Even during this bitter conflict, soldiers from both sides of the war still cared about their animals, and showed some compassion. 

What made this show especially memorable for me was not only the high standard of acting but seeing how the ingeniously constructed horse puppets were manipulated so skilfully by the puppeteers. They made these inanimate creatures prance, gallop and charge on the stage. And although they were just puppets, these horses evoked my emotions. I could almost feel their agony and fear.

We enjoyed War Horse very much and think that older children as well as parents and grandparents would find this a thrilling tale, especially those who love animals. While it would have been even better to be at the National Theatre for the actual performance, seeing the movie was still a great experience.  

war horseThe tale of a World War One Hero; a life sized horse puppet canters onto the stage of London’s National Theatre. The puppeteers have trouble restraining it as it seems to have a will of its own. Joey, this amazing equine creation was made by the South African Handspring Puppet Company from steel, leather and aircraft cables – he is the star of War Horse, a stage show set during World War One.

War Horse is based on a novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo, British children’s laureate. It was adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford and became one of most popular shows of the decade in London, New York and Australia. Unfortunately it hasn’t made it to New Zealand. But the filmed version (of a superb performance by London’s National Theatre) can be seen here in movie theatres now. 

This year, 2014, marks the centenary of the beginning of World War One and many a story will be told of the suffering and bravery of men who went out to war. But horses, the unsung heroes who also played a valuable role, will barely get a mention. 

1,000,000 horses

In total one million horses left Britain for the Western Front. They hauled guns, carried troops to the front, brought the wounded back home and carried supplies and ammunition. Only 60,000 survived. The others were caught up in murderous artillery fire, died from exposure, hunger, fatigue or illness. New Zealand sent 10,000 horses to join in the war effort. Of these just four came home. This show pays tribute to these horses, their heroism and courage.

War Horse tells the story of a farm horse called Joey who belonged to a young Devonshire lad called Albert. When his strapped for cash father sold the horse to the Army for one hundred pounds Albert was devastated. The only way he could trace his beloved horse and be reunited with him was through joining the army. He was just sixteen but through lying about his age he managed to enlist.  Then he went on an epic and dangerous mission to search for his horse.

Meanwhile Joey was shipped off to France and went on his own terrifying journey to the Western Front. Through his eyes we see the horrors and cruelty of war. But we also experience the love which soldiers had for their steeds. 

When he is eventually turned over to the Germans his new master also treats him with affection. Even during this bitter conflict, soldiers from both sides of the war still cared about their animals, and showed some compassion. 

Memorable moments

What made this show especially memorable for me was not only the high standard of acting but seeing how the ingeniously constructed horse puppets were manipulated so skilfully by the puppeteers. They made these inanimate creatures prance, gallop and charge on the stage. And although they were just puppets, these horses evoked my emotions. I could almost feel their agony and fear.

We enjoyed War Horse very much and think that older children as well as parents and grandparents would find this a thrilling tale, especially those who love animals. While it would have been even better to be at the National Theatre for the actual performance, seeing the movie was still a great experience.  

National Theatre: War Horse is distributed by Rialto and is showing in selected movie theatres from Wednesday 26th March –Wednesday 28th May.

Read more from Lyn Potter here