BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPASeen by over 8 million people worldwide, in 97 towns and cities across 11 countries, the National Theatre production of War Horse has finally arrived in Hong Kong on 10th May!

Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, the play follows the journey of Joey, a young foal we first meet at a village auction in Devon. Bought by Ted Narracott, Joey arrives at the family's farm where Ted's son, Albert, promises to look after the foal and train it until it is ready for sale, but over time, the two form a strong and inseparable bond.

Two years later, war breaks out and the news quickly spreads to the countryside, and before long the army arrives in town for recruitment. Learning of the reward on offer for suitable horses, Ted sells Joey to the army, breaking Albert's heart. Unwilling to separate from his best friend, Albert fakes his age and enlists, embarking on a treacherous journey to the frontline in France, determined to find Joey and bring him home.

In this touring production, Albert, is played by Scott Miller, who does an amazing job at conveying the eagerness and positivity of the young country lad, whilst balancing that brilliantly with the sensitive and gentle soul that Albert carries. Miller leads a strong ensemble cast with notable performances from Jo Castleton, as Albert's mother, Charlie Tighe as Captain Stewart, Natalie Kimmerling who plays Emilie, Ben Murray as the songman, and Khalid Daley who plays David, Albert's comrade and close friend within the infantry. Special shoutout goes to Daley who does brilliantly in delivering the comedic moments, which is much-needed given how heavy some of the content is within the play. Daley has this charm that makes the character extremely likeable within seconds, but having established that connection with the character, audiences are soon left heavy-hearted as they watch the character of David march across the battlefield next to Albert for the very last time.

At root, the underlying message of this play is about love and friendship, but the play also serves as an important reminder of history, as it reflects on the magnitude of loss and sacrifice in the First World War - an estimated 10 million military personnel died in the war, and out of the one million horses that were taken from Britain to France, only 62,000 were brought back, and it is, at times, unbelievable how the direction and staging of this show can give audiences a sense of what that means through it's cast of 30+ and props and puppets.

Another impressive aspect is the creativity behind the show. Setting a stage production to a time of war and conflict isn't a new idea at all, but what makes War Horse unique is how the devastation of war is shown through an unbiased channel - not from the British point of view, the Germans or the French, but instead, from the experiences of a horse. The idea of using a horse to tell the story ought to be virtually impossible for a stage production, but with Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris's directions, and the magnificent use of life-size puppets, War Horse will forever be a prime example of theatre magic.

Designed and hand-crafted by the South African Handspring Puppet Company, the show features 23 puppets, including horses, swallows, crows and a goose. The smaller of puppets are each handled by a single puppeteer, whilst the two main horses of the show, Joey and Topthorn, are each manipulated by 3 visible cast members. Whether it be the voice acting to produce horse noises, or the bending of knees by the heart puppeteers to imitate the rise and fall of breathing; the flutter of ears and turning of heads to convey the animal's behaviour, the cast - who are so highly trained in puppeteering and the study of a horse's behaviour - all work together with incredible precision and strong team chemistry, breathing life and emotion into to the cane, leather and tyvec-bound structures.

In addition to the direction, the cast and the puppets, a highly important aspect is the set design. Cleverly created by Rae Smith, it adopts a very minimal approach, using a torn-out sketchbook sheet as its only permanent stage backdrop. Graphics of sketches are projected onto the torn sheet, enabling the audience to be immersed into the locations, from rolling countryside hills, to the rough waves of the English Channel; and calm, starry night skies, to explosive battlefield scenes. All in all, the production is truly extraordinary, and will leave audiences marvelling at the wondrous effects, but the story itself will break your heart. A must-see for all.


War Horse runs until June 2nd at the HKAPA. For tickets and info visit: http://www.hkticketing.com

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

BWW Review: WAR HORSE at HKAPA
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg



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From This Author Rachel Wong