It was with both great excitement and reservation that I went to the opening night of War Horse. Having avoided reading the book (by Michael Morpurgo) and seeing the movie, mainly just because horses died in it (the movie trailer leaving me sobbing like a kidlet), I was just a little scared of the impact of this undeniable must see musical adaptation by Nick Stafford.
Why the apprehension you ask? Well, I am a horse fanatic. I am more than merely passionate about these beautiful creatures; I am the person I am today because of the character their friendship has gifted me with. I befriended my first horse at age 2. I still have the privilege of calling him my friend, my best friend, hands down. There is a real possibility that my heart will stop the day I lose him. I also have a younger horse who reminds me a lot of Joey, the horse puppet star of War Horse. We have the kind of relationship Joey and Albert (his human friend) have … one that embraces the idea and ideal of natural horsemanship.
That to me is what War Horse really accentuates, natural horsemanship. The bond of trust, acceptance, friendship, companionship … never dominance or ownership (as far as Albert goes).
10 minutes into this amazing production and I was tearing up. Tears, mixed with giggles in between, as you can’t look at the on stage antics of the goose-puppet (or “War Goose” as Associate Puppetry Director Craig Leo refers to him) and not giggle.
The puppetry is just so beautiful, so exquisite; it makes your heart burst with pride to know that Handspring Puppet Company is proudly Capetonian in every sense. Joey really is home, even if just for a short visit. Thank you Mr Pieter Toerien for having the vision to arrange his visit.
The animal traits are undeniably on point and their interaction with humans clearly well researched. For example, the way Albert and the little French girl, Emilie, blows into Joey’s face/nose is a way you connect with your horse by transferring your scent. The way the eyes of the puppets glisten with “life” for lack of a better word, the body shivers, the tail swaying to chase the flies away … absolutely as close to real as you can get. Joey and friends may just be the modern day theatre equivalents of Pinocchio, instead of a real boy we are now just blessed with a real horse. Amazing!
I never thought that a play (a musical to boot) could break my heart, but this one did. It took my heart, made me love it and then left me with the nostalgia of having been blessed to know it. I am not even going to apologise for walking out looking like a panda. (Note to self, waterproof mascara clearly not War Horse proof!)
From the first note, you are so invested in the story, the characters (both puppet and human), that you feel their emotions so deeply it almost cuts to the bone. You truly feel so deeply, that when the one German soldier proclaims that horses aren’t human, but just beasts, you want to jump out of your seat and give him a piece of your mind because they are so, so much more than human. They give and love unconditionally, with emotions so finely tuned, we as humans can only learn from them. This every person actually learns from Joey, as you journey along with him and Albert through the epic musical of friendship, love and commitment that is War Horse!
There are literally (at the time of writing this) but a few tickets left for the 31 December 2014 show! I just double checked. So stop reading and go get booking at Computicket already! Now!
Scene it by Barbara Loots.