Broadway Features and Reviews
War Horse: A Stable Broadway Beginning
By Caitlin Maggs, Broadway Magazine
The story of Black Beauty may well be a classic, but in terms of originality, emotional depth and giant pony puppets, 'War Horse' ticks all the boxes. Combining the vast colored spectrum of war, with the subtle poignant tale of a boy and his horse, Michael Morpurgo's humbly bred story of loyalty and love has taken its first confident steps into the world's limelight. It is set to arrive on Broadway this fall.
With its journey only just unravelling, 'War Horse' has already cemented it's personal immortal message that to aim for the stars, even if you hit the just the chimney pot, always reaps its own rewards.
Its hard to believe the Dorset farmer with the trademark humility, "I just write books I'd love to read," has conquered not only the book world, but wooed theatre critics, scooping the prestigious Olivier Award, and now has his story galloping 'across the pond' to Broadway, with the alluring promise of the silver screen waiting behind back stage.
As an avid daydreamer who takes inspiration from the natural, and the equally disheartening man-made world around him, Morpurgo's depth of storytelling has been praised as "mysterious and intense" by The Daily Telegraph. Although surely it hasn't all been easy riding from the onset?
Letting go of the reins to the reliable National Theatre was no smooth bargain for Michael Morongo and his war-time novel, especially when he discovered life-size puppets to have entered the cast list. Not being the usual award-winning combination however, even Morongo had to agree with the "real genius" of which The Guardian acknowledged was beneath this modern and yet impressively respectful adaptation.
'War Horse' draws audiences right into the heart of World War One, following the life of a 16 year old recruit as he moves from the peace of the country to the chaos of the trenches, seeing the world he knows reserve into battle and bloodshed.
Albert soon learns that the only one dependable constancy left behind, is the devotion between him and his horse Joey. The unspoken loyalty between Albert and Joey beautifully mirrors the intense bond between man and nature, set in contrast to the brooding undercurrent of war. Leaving open the question, are dogs really man's best friend after all?
This deeply moving tale manages to visually speak volumes of the flaky foundations of warfare in its flourishing stage productions, whilst still retaining the untutored warmth derived from the very first reading of this beloved novel, which won over so many.
An unlikely challenge for the internationally renowned Handspring Puppet Company, Morpurgo's tale original tenderly crafted for children, and told through the objective eyes of a horse, became an unavoidable obstacle for Nick Stafford's ambitious stage adaptation, and a dilemma all the bamboo frames and black fabric in the world would not be able to solve.
But this universalising of the shared suffering experienced The Great War was reflected and, greatly developed upon by emotional performances from the likes of Jamie Ballard and Alice Barclay.
'War Horse' has a long journey still ahead, but just look how far it has already come. Trampling over the sceptics, soon to transfer to Broadway and now gleaming with anxious rumours of a Spielberg adaptation, this modest story of truth in the midst of madness, appears to have only the test of time left to face.
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