A misty-eyed standing ovation for first night of NT’s War Horse tour

War Horse Tour. Photo by Brinkhoff&M+�genburg
War Horse Tour. Photo by Brinkhoff&M+�genburg

The hotly anticipated tour of the National Theatre’s production of War Horse has finally arrived in our area.

The Brighton Centre’s unique concert venue has been transformed, allowing the audience to be drawn into the show more than ever before.

War Horse Tour. Photo by Brinkhoff&M+�genburg

War Horse Tour. Photo by Brinkhoff&M+�genburg

Ramps drop down into the auditorium from either end of the stage adding a new dimension. Joey, the star - a master craft in equine puppetry - took advantage of this as he galloped around the full-house.

Simply put, this is the story of a boy who falls in love with his horse and their journey from the Devonshire countryside to the gruesome battlefields of the Somme. The action develops as black and white sketches drawn by soldiers’ hands bring Michael Morpurgo’s haunting tale to life on a huge projector screen, spanning the width of the stage.

Albert (Thomas Dennis), joins his Devonshire regiment during the Great War so that he can travel to France and find the beloved horse that his drunken father sold to the army.

The real magic of this show is the puppetry. The engineering involved in bringing these staggering creatures - Joey, and his stable-mate Topthorn - to life is a stroke of genius. Two people carry the 10-stone weight of each horse on their shoulders while another expertly operates their heads. They work in unison to bring these steeds to life. A flick of the tail, pricking up of the ears, the breathing and grunting all add to an absolute belief that the horses before us were real.

War Horse has managed to capture the reality of war and the poignant message that no one wins during war was palpable; it was a striking rarity to watch a play from this era eliminate any sign of propoganda.

Our bloody history echoed around this vast venue as the full house listened silently to the trip-trap of the Handspring Puppet Company’s masterpieces and jumped out of their seats to the sound of gunfire.

Cutting through the horrors of trench-life are witty one-liners threaded together with hope, resilience and love. A well-deserved misty eyed, standing ovation welcomed the National Theatre’s achievement to Brighton with open arms. By Lyndsey Cambridge.