The World War 1 stage play ‘War Horse’ has returned to Melbourne for the first time since 2013 but this time for a limited season.
‘War Horse’ ran for three months in its debut season. The acclaimed play is the first production to be staged since the renovations of the Regent Theatre in Melbourne.
‘War Horse’ is adapted from the Michael Morpurgo 1982 novel. Morpurgo was previously known as a children’s novelist. The concept for the book sprung from conversations he had in his local pub with World War I veterans.
The play is heavy duty and often confronting. It is blunt in its portrayal for war and not a show for the faint-hearted. Around 10 million are estimated to have died during World War I including 800,000 British. ‘War Horse’ takes the horror of the war even further with the addition of the hundreds of thousands of horses also slaughtered during the war.
This is the story of the horse Joey and Albert who raises him from a foal. Joey becomes one of the horses sent to the war in France. Albert lies about his age to join the army in search of his horse.
Scott Miller plays a convincing Albert Narracott, the boy who raises Joey and then goes to war to find him. Scott needs to convince the audience of the connection to make this show work and he plays a passionate and persuasive Albert.
The true artistry of ‘War Horse’ is in the puppetry. With no real animals in the show (other than the cast), the horse puppeteers bring these incredible creatures to life in the most awe-inspiring way. The movement and sounds are so realistic it’s a pity we can’t do a Melbourne Cup this way. Puppeteers work the horses from the head, the body and the legs. Lighting is dim and clothing is camouflaged to create the illusion of life with the animals. The sounds are spot-on. It is not hard to imagine what you see is real.
‘War Horse’ is a magnificent stage production. It is a testament to the merging of technology and theatre art.
Again, however, this is not a feelgood show. Like with the real war, there is no happy ending.
See War Horse at the Regent Theatre until February 8. That will be followed by a Sydney run at the Lyric from 15 February, and finally Perth at the Crown Theatre from 24 March.