I recently had a chance to see the remarkable play, "War Horse," which was transported from London's West End to New York's Lincoln Center. I am going to continue quoting Ben Brantley, the New York Times critic whose words I borrowed in yesterday's review of "Porgy and Bess." He captures beautifully the essence of the sensation that is playing to sold-out houses at Lincoln Center.
"It takes a team of strong but sensitive puppeteers to bring Joey, a half-Thoroughbred who is sold into a World War I cavalry regiment, to life-size life. And it is how Joey is summoned into being, along with an assortment of other animals, that gives this production its ineffably theatrical magic. Steven Spielberg is working on a film version of “War Horse,” a 1982 novel for children by Michael Morpurgo. But nothing on screen could replicate the specific thrill of watching Joey take on substance and soul, out of disparate artificial parts, before our eyes.
This enchantment is the work of the designers Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, for the Handspring Puppet Company, based in Cape Town. And the spell cast has been strong enough to turn “War Horse,” which originated at the National Theater in London, into a runaway West End hit. A show that might otherwise have registered as only an agreeable children’s entertainment has been drawing repeat grown-up customers, who happily soak their handkerchiefs with wholesome tears."
NY Times Review of "War Horse"
Steven Spielberg found this story, drawn from a children novel, so compelling that he is making it into a blockbuster film to be released in theaters this coming Christmas holiday season.
In my seat at the Beaumont Theater , I watched the puppets that represent the horses come to life. As the puppets began to breathe, suspension of disbelief occurred instantaneously, and for the rest of the evening, I thought of them and related to them emotionally as if they were real horses. Like Peter Shaffer's iconic play, "Equus," "War Horse" darkly explores the cruelty that we human beings are capable of perpetrating against these majestic beasts.
Tickets for "War Horse" are difficult to score, but it is worth the investment of time and money. I am sure the film will be memorable, but seeing the horse puppets come to life is well worth the price of admission.