Matthew Jameson reviews – War Horse at The Alambra Theatre, Bradford. Showing now until the 10th March 2018.
The First World War throughout history was depicted as hell on earth in trench warfare, soldiers living, sleeping and breathing behind enemy lines in France waiting to strike. I remember sat in my History class at school learning about the battles that took place and the endless death and solitude for everyone. The untold story of the forgotten heroes is undeniably poetic in what can only be described as a truly visual masterpiece on the stage. War Horse, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, is one of those productions you think will either blow you away or fail to give the story true justice. I’m delighted to say this totally blows you away and immediately creates a war-torn world inhabited with the gallant steeds and brave soldiers defending Britain.
The War Horses depicted are phenomenal and presented in association with the award-winning Handspring Puppet Company, so imaginative and realistic in movement and sound you actually believe they are real horses on the stage in front of you. The energy, atmosphere and whole staging brings the production to life in a way you wouldn’t have thought possible, you are right there in the middle or World War 1! The puppeteers achieve an incredible task with Joey an Tapthorn along with the other animals thrust to life in this magical way. Watching you forget they are puppets which to me is the true magic in the production.
The cast tell the story beautifully with Albert (Thomas Dennis) going to war to find his beloved horse Joey after his father, Ted (Gwilym Lloyd), sells him to the army. His mother Rose (Jo Castleton) desperate to keep the family together as the war destroys everything around them. The German officer Friedrich Muller (Peter Becker) encapsulates the desperation of both sides as we see the breakdown of life and fear take over, really heart wrenching and poignant to the end.
In the setting of the fabulous Alhambra Theatre, if you see one show this year then this has to be it. The film was excellent but nothing compares to real life action and emotion you can smell, feel and almost touch.