BWW Review: WAR HORSE, SEC Armadillo Glasgow
Courage, friendship, determination and hope, War Horse is a love story like no other.
After the auction purchase of a foal by a foolish father bidding to save his pride, the Narracott family must work out what to do with a bay thoroughbred horse on their Devon farm.
Glasgow-born Scott Miller plays Albert Narracott, the young country son who bonds with the horse, naming him Joey. Their bond appears unbreakable until a hasty decision pushes their connection to its limits.
Miller's portrayal of Albert grows believably from a boy into a young man, while still highlighting how adolescent and inexperienced the boys sent to the trenches were during the First World War.
The champions of the show are the horses. In 2007 when the play premiered at the National Theatre, the puppetry methods used were revolutionary. South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company's techniques have featured in various news articles and documentaries over the years.
Many other productions owe a great deal to the play for their own animal characters. Each horse is as majestically mesmerising today. Every sneeze or ear flick has such charm and authenticity.
The cast who operate the head, heart and hide establish a heightened believability that makes it impossible to not be emotionally connected to Joey. As with Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris original direction, Katie Henry keeps the puppeteers visible through Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler's designs.
This celebration of unity and skill between actor, puppet and spirit of the horse harmoniously reflects Joey and Albert's robust friendship.
Rae Smith's design, lit by Paule Constable, matched with video design by Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer, build a colour palette which strikingly contrasts the reminiscent rural warmth of England against the dark, stark reality of war.
War Horse skilfully tells a powerful tale, with a glimmer of a light always at the end of the tunnel. Without rose-tinting or glamorising the First World War, it grounds itself in the human stories, uniquely showing the emotional cost, human and equine sacrifice - on both sides of the trench - by those used as pawns in a higher power's game.
War Horse is an exquisite equine adventure, a national treasure of a play. After over 10 years, it will not be hitting the hay anytime soon with another well-deserved extensive global gallop ahead.
Photo credit: Brinkhoff Mögenburg