Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Writer Nikki Cotter
War Horse, the most successful play in the National Theatre’s history, seen by over 7 million people worldwide returned to the Lowry last night to a thunderous and well deserved standing ovation.
Adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel which was then given the Stephen Speilberg treatment in 2011, War Horse depicts the experience of World War I via the differing journeys of young soldier Albert Narracott (Thomas Dennis) and his beloved horse, Joey.
Albert’s father (Jasper William Cartwright) drunkenly buys Joey to be used as a farm horse, realising he is unsuited to work plans are made to sell him; Albert however who has quickly created the deepest of bonds with the horse commits himself to teaching him to plough within one week, the reward being keeping his friend on the farm.
Life however changes dramatically when war is declared as deeply treasured Joey is requisitioned to the cavalry and shipped to the battlefields of France. Devastated Albert, too young to fight flees from home, lying about his age in a bid to sign up, find Joey and bring him home. What follows is a story of epic proportions as Joey is passed through the hands of soldiers on opposing sides in a breath-taking tale of resilience, determination and incredible courage.
From first meeting Joey as a foal he entirely captivates, the brilliance of Handspring Puppet Company exceeds every expectation. The relationship between Albert and Joey is an absolute joy to watch. Joey is brought to snorting and stomping life in the most striking and creative of ways by incredibly talented puppeteers. The portrayal of not just Joey but the rest of the animals is so convincing, you soon forget that they aren’t real animals as every single heartstring is pulled, knotted and stretched a little bit more as their traumatic experiences on the battlefield unfold.
Thomas Dennis is superb as Albert Narracott playful and determined as young Albert, the journey he goes on demonstrating with striking clarity just how absurd the notion of war is. Peter Becker gives a strong performance as German captain Friedrich Muller, a man defeated by the nonsense of war who just wants to return to his family and forget the horrors he has seen.
Poignant songs by John Tams delivered beautifully by singing narrator Bob Fox, drive the story on as we travel from the green fields of Devon to the desolate fields of No Man’s Land.
Through clever puppetry and stunning acting important messages are delivered, hope, courage under duress and the unfathomable futility of war. Genuine devastation for the plight of the men and the horses is palpable throughout the audience as the harrowing sounds of war ring out, with atmospheric lighting design from Paule Constable and superb sound design from Christopher Shutt cementing this as a multi-sensory theatrical experience.
War Horse is nothing short of epic. Emotive, powerful theatre, exquisitely delivered that will stay with you long after the curtain falls.
War Horse is on at The Lowry until Saturday 30th June, tickets available here.