Friday, October 16, 2015

'War Horse' by Michael Morpurgo, adapted by Nick Stafford

16 October 2015

It was beginning to feel like we were the only people left in the country who hadn't seen the amazingly successful National Theatre production of 'War Horse'. So last Saturday we made our way to the New London Theatre to see what all the fuss was about. Nick Stafford's stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's book, directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, is a very impressive theatrical experience, bringing together a vast cast, original music (by Adrian Sutton), the excellent folk singer Ben Murray (singing songs by John Tams), and stunning design by Rae Smith. Smith's back-projected drawings which represent the sketch book of Captain Nicholls, form a journey through the artistic styles of the early 20th century, becoming harsher and more angular (echoing the Vorticists) as the story moves into the bleakness of the Western Front. But undoubtedly the star attraction is the puppetry, developed by the Handspring Puppet Company from South Africa. Their exoskeleton creations are simple representations of the animals, and the three actors who manipulate each puppet are always clearly visible, but the equine movement is so meticulously observed and recreated that they become totally convincing as horses. 'War Horse' is a moving, tear-jerking experience. It's also one the best examples of the way subsidised theatre has the capacity to develop original, inventive, high-quality productions with the potential to become a substantial commercial hit.

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