As soon as you see Joey, the star of the play War Horse, you’ll understand why it won five Tony Awards. The massive horse puppets don’t just tell a story, they capture the hearts of the audience. With every twitch of the ear, or intake of breath, Joey pulls you in emotionally. This story is available in three forms; book, movie, or play. The most memorable, by far, is the play. You don’t necessarily have to read the novel before you see the play, but it would clarify some parts.
Joey’s story starts out with Albert, a fifteen year old boy. They grow up together, and you can see the bond between them strengthen. When war comes between them, the relentless determination to find each other again drives them through the horrendous war. I was kind of disappointed because it strayed from being told from Joey’s perspective, and too much liberty was taken when changing the story line.
War Horse is a very unique play. Colossal, eight feet tall, 120 pound puppets are used. At first, it may be distracting to see people operating Joey and the other horses, but ten minutes into the show, Joey comes to life. His eyes flicker, his tail swishes, and he moves with the grace of an actual horse. The audience will forget about the puppeteers and fall in love with Joey. To try and capture the vast space of a battlefield on a small stage is no easy feat, but the scene changes are very neat. To get a tank on stage is also quite an impediment, but this play has tricks up its sleeve.
The play may be inappropriate for younger kids due to adult humor, language, and themes strewn throughout. Kids will certainly adore the puppets, but may be crushed when some of them die. War isn’t a pretty thing, and they definitely don’t sugar coat the deaths of both human and horse. Loud gun shots and dead bodies are also scattered in the play.
The National Theater of Great Britain is now performing War Horse through January 20 at the Buell Theater in Denver. This extraordinary play is worth seeing, and Joey’s time on stage is unforgettable. For ticket information visit http://www.denvercenter.org .