Favourites on Friday - 'War Horse' Revisited

First, wanted to share the ‘smiley’ moon; took this early Wed evening.

This is a favourite moment from last Thursday.  Just as it did with ‘Coriolanus’, the National Theatre screened another stage show, this time ‘War Horse’.  

Even before we went to see the film, this was one stage show I really wanted to see, but the cost of theatre tickets + train tickets made it eye-wateringly expensive for the three of us.  Imagine my excitement when I found out it was being screened at our local cinema, and this time Gordon came too.

The core of the story is the same for stage and the film, but there were differences.  The character of Albert’s uncle became the landlord in the film; his cousin on stage was changed to his best friend in the film; the thoughts and feelings of the German officer in the stage production ended up inhabiting a couple of ‘new’ characters in the film.  I think the differences work for each production, but personally, I prefer the film.

One of the things I did like about the stage production was the use of different languages.  The English spoke English, but the German soldiers spoke German, and the French spoke French.  The only one who spoke English was the German officer who interacted with the two horses, Joey and Topthorn.

By far the best thing about the stage production is the horse puppets; but to call them ‘puppets’ seems almost criminal.  They are magnificent.  And so breath-takingly real!  It’s the eyes, I’m sure, that enhance the illusion.  Even though the puppet-handlers are on the stage – with the adult horses, you can see the puppeteers’ legs, and there’s another one working the horse’s head alongside the puppet – you forget they’re there, they do such an amazing job.  Also, their costumes reflect the scene, like when the horse is on the farm, the puppeteers are dressed as farmhands, and for the war scenes, they’re dressed in uniform.    

Joey as a foal


Topthorn on the left, and Joey

The horse puppets (and the puppeteers!) are strong enough for the actors to sit on them.  

The horses that have been so worn down by the relentlessness of the war are depicted with tattered ‘cloth’ hanging from the framework of the puppets; visually arresting.  And yes, I cried.  The way the puppeteers moved the horse in its death-throes was too heart-breaking and real.  The Handspring Puppet Company, the South African company responsible for making the puppets, are true masters of their art.  I am so glad we had the chance to see the stage production.