War Horse first played to a packed Mayflower theatre back in 2014 on its first visit, and from the 16th May to 9th June 2018 it is making a welcome return. The visit to Mayflower Theatre in Southampton is part of a major tour coinciding with the Centenary commemorations of the end of the first World War and is an incredibly compelling production.
Directed by Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris, Nick Stafford’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s story has been seen by over seven million people worldwide. As one who hasn’t actually read the Michael Morpurgo book, I really wasn’t sure what to expect but the War Horse theatre production has completely and utterly blown me away.
War Horse is set during World War 1 and shows the remarkable story of courage, loyalty and friendship. It is all about a young boy called Albert and his horse Joey. After Albert’s father uses their mortgage money to win the horse at auction, Albert takes Joey upon himself, determined to look after him and train Joey to be a farm horse.
Set in rural Devon Albert and Joey develop an incredibly strong connection, which is shown so well through the fantastic puppetry on show. I’ve never seen puppetry like it, it was done so well that the movements are exactly how you would expect a real-life horse to act, and you start to believe there are real-life horses on stage.
After developing a best friend friendship, unfortunately, Albert’s father sells Joey off as a war horse in World War 1. Emotions are immediately thrown into the air as Albert is understandably absolutely devastated. He tries to go off to war himself so he can be by his horse but due to his young age is unable too.
Eventually, Albert finds himself in France on a journey and fight to find his horse, and bring him home back safe and sound.
The theatre production honestly had me on edge throughout, jumping as gunshots went off and extremely transfixed onto the horses and the characters. The incredible puppetry meant that even though there were three actors managing the horses your focus was completely on the horse and you forgot there were people managing them.
Albert was played by Thomas Dennis and he was definitely the star of the show for me, incredibly relatable with his own personality and charm. You could almost feel Albert’s emotions through Thomas, and all you wanted was for him to find his horse and have him back safe and sound. The goose in the second picture was something I particularly liked too, as it added a bit of humour to a very intense and emotional show.
The staging and music is something that really needs to be commented on too. Aside from the horses the backdrop really added to the atmosphere, along with the smoked theatrical lighting, that just added to such an immersive experience. Additionally, the music is something I adored, and adds even more depth to the production – I couldn’t imagine the show without this music.
The show was absolutely incredible, and one I’m so glad I got the opportunity to see with the Southampton Bloggers. It isn’t a show I would necessarily normally pick, but how wrong was I, I would happily go and see this every evening it’s in Southampton. It’s simply spectacular and the emotions the show evokes are unbelievable. You go through shock, sadness, delight and joy.
If you want to go and see this I thoroughly recommend it, you honestly won’t regret it. It’s at Mayflower Theatre until the 9th June, so make sure to get yourself some tickets.