Select Page

War Horse

Let it be stated for the record that I am neither a horse lover, nor a puppet appreciator. (Ok, with one big exception inAvenue Q, but really… generally, not a fan. At all.)

With this in mind, seeing the “epic” and “remarkable” Tony Award-winning War Horse, now playing at the Ahmanson Theatre, could be challenging. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that I would spend the evening rolling my eyes and looking at my watch, wishing I could get those hours back….

Entirely possible, couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s England 1914. Due to a monumental sibling rivalry, Albert’s father pays far more than he can afford for a hunting horse at an auction, simply to keep the horse out of the hands of his brother wanting to purchase it for his son. Because the horse can’t really function as a workhorse on their farm, he is put in the care of young Albert (Andrew Veenstra) to raise and train in hopes of fetching a good price for him at a later time. With the horse’s seeming approval, Albert names him Joey… and a powerful bond between the two is formed. As WW1 begins, Albert’s father sells the dear Joey to the Calvary, to be shipped to France to serve in the war. The audience follows the harrowing journey of Joey the horse, and has the pleasure of being a witness to the sheer devotion that drives Albert embark on a mission to find and bring Joey home.

Good story. Adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel. Adapted by Nick Stafford.

Now, let’s address the puppets. It seems insulting to refer to them as such. Brilliant theatre spectacle with master controllers, feels more appropriate. Surely you have already heard that the life-size horses are extraordinary puppets, along with a few other farm animals. The horses are made from cane, steel and leather. The puppets are operated with the use of aircraft cables and given life by an amazing company from South Africa, the Handspring Puppet Company. Seeing these horses and puppeteers are worth the price of admission alone. (Puppet design, fabrication and direction: Adrian Kohler with Basil Jones.)

Good theatre spectacle. Due not only to the puppets, but also to the projections (59 Productions) artistically and creatively displayed throughout the show that truly aid the audience along the journey.

A recipe for greatness, yes?

Topped off by a gigantic (!) and cohesive ensemble of actors and puppeteers. If I had to gripe about something, and that is part of the deal, isn’t it? I’d say the second half began to drag a bit and the end is a smidge syrupy sweet. So it isn’t perfect? Thank God.

I haven’t seen the movie. I purposefully held off to see the play first. I don’t, however, live under a rock, and I know the movie wasn’t as well received as some thought it would. From my uneducated point of view, I encourage those who might be disenchanted by their movie experience to give the stage version a shot. I really can’t imagine who could be disappointed with this production. It is that good. It is that inspiring. The Tony Award for best play was warranted. Don’t miss your chance to see it fresh out of the touring gate.

Ahmanson Theatre
Through July 22
135 N. Grand Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90012
$20-$150… look for discount tickets on the usual sites.