WAR HORSE--An Unmissable Theatrical Feat--Must Close in Hong Kong Today, June 2
War Horse is a perfect marriage of theatrical spectacle and a story that captivates the audience.
Hong Kong--After a week of extended performances, the second UK and international touring company of the Tony-Award winning play War Horse must close its Hong Kong leg today, June 2, 2019, at the Lyric Theatre of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts--the venue was packed to the rafters when we watched it last Tuesday, May 28, 2019.
War Horse in Hong Kong is jointly produced by James Cundall's Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and The National Theatre of Great Britain, which hosted the 2007 world premiere of this production, whose scope and scale are rather grand, yet, its central story, intimate enough to tear at your heartstrings. Its Hong Kong leg is the show's only stop in Asia; it returns to London in the autumn this year.
Cundall says, "The touching storyline based on Michael Morpurgo's beloved  novel features spectacular puppetry work, brought to life by the highly skilled puppeteers. Combined with the cleverly designed stage/set, the War Horse company create the utterly convincing world in which Joey [the War Horse] exists, taking the audience from rural Devon to the battlefields of France. It's an astonishing piece of theatre that will surely move your heart."
Allan M. Nazareno, an artist-in-residence at the Yew Chung International School in Hong Kong, who watched the show twice, shares his insights, "Watching this amazing piece of theater for the second time made me appreciate the theatricality even more. While Julie Taymor's puppets in THE LION KING were outstanding. I personally felt the puppets employed in this production were a notch more tricky because they had to act and look realistic. Even with its minimalist set and props, the play really did feel cinematic and grand. Truly theater at its finest. If ever you get a chance to see this play, do it! It's mind-blowing."
Adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford, War Horse won two 2008 Laurence Olivier Awards, which included Best Set Design for Rae Smith, Basil Jones, and Adrian Kohler and Best Theatre Choreographer for Toby Sedgwick.
The show also won a whopping five 2011 Tony Awards, which included Best Play, Best Direction of a Play for Marianne Elliot (who also directed "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," which recently had a successful run in Hong Kong and Tom Morris, Best Scenic Design for Rae Smith, Best Lighting Design of a Play for Paule Constable (who also beautifully lit the 25th-anniversary production of "Les Miserables"), and Best Sound Design for Christopher Shutt.
War Horse tells the story about a country boy and his horse set against the backdrop of the First World War, with, arguably, the most stunning use of bunraku-like puppetry since Disney's THE LION KING on Broadway. This much-deserved credit goes to the animal movement and choreography by Sedgwick, and to Kohler and Jones of South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company, who masterfully crafted around 23 puppets, including Joey, another horse named Topthorn, a goose, two swallows, and two crows.
This stage adaptation of War Horse, which has been seen by nearly 8 million people around the world, across 11 countries, also inspired Steven Spielberg's 2011 war drama film of the same name, which starred Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, and Emily Watson.
Promising young actor Scott Miller, an alumnus of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, plays the boy, Albert Narracott. He acts alongside the delightful Jo Castleton, who returns to the tour as Rose Narracott, Albert's mother, and Ben Murray, who returns from the London's West End run as Song Man, whose poignant songs were composed by John Tams. They are joined by the real heroes of the show, the puppeteers. Joey, Topthorn, and Joey as a young horse are each operated by three puppeteers: Rianna Ash or Tom Quinn or Tom Stacy (Joey's head), Alex Hopper or Lewis Howard or Domonic Ramsden (Joey's Heart), Mark Matthews or Samuel Parker or Andrew Keay (Joey's hind), Kofi Aidoo-Appiah or Tom Quinn or Tom Stacy (Topthorn's head), Michael Jean-Marain or Lewis Howard or Domonic Ramsden (Topthorn's heart), Michael Jean-Marain or Lewis Howard or Domonic Ramsden (Topthorn's hind), and Kiran Landa, Elizabeth Stretton, and Khalid Daley (Joey as a young horse).
War Horse features the video design by 59 Productions' Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer, whose visuals are mostly projected on an oversized ripped page from a sketchbook, which crosses the proscenium stage; the stunning music by Adrian Sutton, and the surround sound design by Shutt. Katie Henry is at the helm of this UK/International Tour. Charlotte Peters is Henry's associate director; Craig Leo and Matthew Forbes, associate puppetry directors; Charlie Kenber, resident director, and Gareth Aled, resident puppetry director.