War Horse - a unique and unmissable theatrical event

By Samuel Markram , Friday 15 February 2013

The play that’s been called “the theatrical event of the decade” by The Times has just entered its fifth year on the West End stage. Samuel Markram visits the New London Theatre to see what the fuss is all about.
War Horse at the New London TheatreWar Horse at the New London Theatre

As a keen theatre-goer I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the New London Theatre to finally discover War Horse for myself. The production has been met with near universal critical acclaim and has now welcomed well over a million audience members.

Based on Michael Morpugo’s novel about the outbreak of the First World War and a boy’s devotion to his horse, the show is unlike anything else I’ve seen. Using puppets, it requires a vast expanse of open space on stage to allow enough room for full-size galloping, rearing horses.

Having experienced horses up close many times, it doesn’t take long to forget that the horses in the show are operated by puppeteers.  Drawing the audience into the story, the puppeteers truly bring a living, breathing horse to life from a bamboo and carved wood frame. 

The understanding of how the horses move and react with their environments, and the personalities and individual emotions each horse is given are outstanding.  An honorable mention must also be given to the other animals and birds that appear on stage throughout - I particularly liked the goose, which brought a lighter touch to proceedings.

Although the journey of Joey the horse is the focus of attention throughout the film, the cast is also excellent. From the dogged determination shown by the character of Albert, who has cared for Joey since he was a foal and refuses to give hope of finding him and bringing him home, to the grief and maternal instincts of his mother Rose, you are drawn into a convincing portrayal of life around the time of the First World War.

With some powerful story-telling and an enthralling atmosphere, the show truly is unique and unmissable. Now I understand what the fuss is all about...


Winner of five Tony awards in 2011, War Horse is playing at the New London Theatre, Drury Lane and is booking into 2014. You can buy tickets from the Saga theatre ticket website.

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