Thursday, 2 August 2018

REVIEW: War Horse at New Victoria Theatre, Woking


It’s not often I’m lost for words but after half-an-hour of relentless tears, I believe my first words after this show finished were “I cannot believe what I’ve just seen.” 

War Horse is the story of a 16 year-old lad named Albert from Devon who thanks to a lucky buy from his father at the local market, inherits a foal whom he names Joey. Half thorough-bred, the locals don’t believe Joey has what it takes to help Albert and his family on their farm. “That horse won’t plough” they say. Well, Albert is full of adoration and determination to teach Joey how to be the horse his family needs and in a few short months, he’s done exactly that. However, Joey is lost to a Captain at the outbreak of the First World War. War Horse is Albert’s journey to find his horse; his Joey. 

After a hugely successful stint in London’s West End over 7 years, War Horse is embarking on a UK Tour to bring the magical journey of a boy and his horse to life. Presented by the National Theatre, this production is absolutely faultless. 

War Horse is widely known for its puppetry. Since the first images of Joey in the stage show were released, there has been a fascination surrounding it. “Just how do they do it?” Well, there are two Joey “puppets” – one foal, one stallion. Expertly maneuvered by three actors each, the horses do not even require suspension of reality as they simply move so realistically, you believe it without a second thought. Joey’s growth into the magnificent adult ‘war horse’ is so beautifully executed; it earned its own mid-scene applause. 

One thing which never crossed my mind before curtain up was the sounds of the horse. I presumed it was done either in silence or with some form of audio recordings. Boy, was I wrong. The actors controlling the horse work in perfect harmony to blend together and make the most realistic noises expressing all manner of emotion without becoming surrealistic. 

The use of war songs as a soundtrack to the piece add poignancy and depth to the drama without making it seem staged. There are moments in this production which are deeply harrowing and distressing, enhanced on the opposite side of the musical spectrum as they were accompanied by absolute silence. 

What makes this production so sublime is how it totally transported me to 1910’s Devon and France with such little set pieces; a door, a bucket, a bicycle… The ensemble completely commit to this stunning show and deliver it without fault. 

The production takes you on a true journey – bright fresh starts at the beginning with sunlight and laughter before descending into the true drudgery and darkness of war, loss of hope and despair before once more bringing us back to light on the other side. I may have a penchant for melodramatics but in
absolute seriousness, I was seriously dehydrated by the end of this production – nothing has ever hit me quite so deep in my heart before and provoked such an intense outpouring of emotion like this production did. It was so overwhelmingly beautiful, it appeared that crying was the only way I could handle it.

War Horse is quite simply the most exquisite piece of theatre I have ever seen. Everything is perfect.

Review by Harriet Langdown 

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: G2 Stalls | Price of ticket: £55.40
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