War Horse - Curve Review.

The National Theatre's stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel War Horse gallops into Curve as part of it's UK and international tour.

Left: Charlie Tighe and the Tophorn Team. Right: Danny Hendrix and the Joey Team.
Photo by Brinkhoff and Mogenburg
Nick Stafford's adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's premiered back in 2007 and has continued to play worldwide since. It's not hard to see why this powerful piece of theatre has been a hit from day one.

The moving tale of young Albert Narracott and horse Joey, which was brought by Albert's father in a moment of drunken bravado. In 1914 Joey is sold to the army as a war horse and sent over to the battlefields northern France. Disillusioned at home Albert runs away to the army determined to be reunited with his horse.

You may wonder how you stage such a story but the work that directors Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris have done is tremendous. The puppets designed and made by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler of the Handspring Puppet Company are astonishing.

The life-sized horses are controlled by three puppeteers, their work is that good that they're completely believable. The movement and sounds created are exquisite, I found watching the horses particularly Joe and Topthorn really moving. There's a harrowing scene towards the latter end of act two (which I won't spoil) but it ripped my emotions to shreds and I just saw in awe and openly weeping.

Scott Miller (Albert Narracott).
Photo by Brinkhoff and Mogenburg
Further puppets include sinister crows who feast on the battlefields dead bodies, swallows that symbolise the peaceful home life and there's the goose, operated by Jonathan Cobb. The goose is tremendous. Adding a light sprinkling of comedy to the piece.

Adding real power to the production is the design work by Rae Smith. The use of huge torn out piece of a scrapbook which is translated a huge screen above the set for beautiful projections throughout sets the scenes. There's drawings of the landscapes of the Devon farm life through to the battlefields. The drawings really bring out the brutality of war.

Paule Constable's lighting teamed up Christopher Shutt's sound design further enhances the atmosphere of the production. The 'over the top' sequence really moved me, as the soldiers moved in slow motion towards the enemy.

Albert is played superbly by Scott Miller, from farm boy to battlefield soldier Scott carries the emotion of the story brilliantly. His interactions with Joey are heart rendering.

Tom Stacy, Domonic Ramsden and Alex Keay. Photo by Brinkhoff and Mogenburg
The brilliant large company is full of great performances. Billy Hendrix's terrified soldier Billy, Ben Cutler as Lieutenant Nicholls and Natalie Kimmerling as Emilie all worthy of mentions. Christopher Naylor's Friedrich Muller gives an excellent performance of life on the German side as his character tries to desert the front and save the horses from the battlefield.

Ben Murray's leads the gorgeous music of Adrian Sutton and John Tams wonderfully. He's a lovely folk voice. The ensemble music numbers are really powerful as the ensemble come from the back of the stage to great visual effect.

This is a masterpiece of a play and of live theatre. It's powerful, harrowing and deeply moving. An important story that everyone of any age should see. The often forgotten about part of World War One, the impact the horses had to the war effort and of the lives of those around them must be remembered and there's no better way to remember that this incredible play.

Rating: ★★★★★

War Horse continues at Curve until Saturday 12th October. For more information and to book visit https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/war-horse/

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