In War Horse, young Albert's beloved horse Joey is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France during the First World War. He's soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man's land. However, Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist, the boy embarks on a treacherous mission to find the horse and bring him home.
On stage, horses, children and other selected characters are brought to life by life-sized puppets created by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler for South African puppet company Handspring. Suitable for over 12s, the production is co-directed by NT associates Marianne Elliott and Tom Smith and designed by Rae Smith, with lighting by Paule Constable, movement by Toby Sedgwick and music by Adrian Sutton. The 26-strong, multi-tasking company features Luke Treadaway (as Albert), Angus Wright, Jamie Ballard, Alan Williams, Toby Sedgwick, Thusitha Jayasundera and Tim van Eyken.
First night critics, already fans of the NT’s last two Christmas offerings, declared that War Horse had “dramatically raised the stakes” even further. While completely and unanimously beguiled by Handspring’s “truly magnificent” and “uncannily beautiful” equine creations, they also emphasised that this is “much more than a puppet show” thanks to the “outstanding” human cast and the confluence of “thrilling” direction, design, music and lighting. In short, concluded one critic, this is “one of the most powerfully moving and imaginative productions of the year”.
- by Terri Paddock