Theatre Review: “War Horse”
The Tony Award winning, “War Horse,” adapted by Nick Stafford from the novel by Michael Morpurgo, is a pure visual feast.
Presented by the National Theatre of Great Britain and Bob Boyett and playing at The Landmark Theatre, “War Horse” follows the story of a young man named Albert, played by Michael Wyatt Cox in Tuesday’s show, and his horse Joey. The two are torn apart by war when Joey is sold to the army during World War I by Albert’s sorry drunk of a father, Ted, played by Gene Gillette.
As we follow Joey and Albert after their separation, it becomes abundantly clear just how deep Albert’s connection is with Joey. When Lieutenant James Nicholls, played by Brendan Murray, promised to look after Joey during the war, is killed, Albert immediately joins the army in the hopes that he can find his four-legged companion.
Joey and another war horse, Topthorn, change ownership several times throughout the story and as Act I concludes it appears less likely that Albert and Joey will ever be reunited.
The second act is much stronger than the first with the relationship between Emilie, played by Kai-Ling Chung, and German Captain Friedrich Muller, played by Andrew May, being a real highlight. Friedrich is a deserter from the German Army and has become the temporary owner of Joey and Topthorn. When he is found out, Friedrich is forced to hand Joey and Topthorn over to the army to assist in pulling artillery.
The first time Joey appears on stage is absolutely breathtaking. The Handspring Puppet company has created life size horse puppets large enough for grown men to ride. Each puppet is operated by three men, two inside and one controlling the head. I did find that having an operator controlling the head at all times was a bit distracting, but did not take anything away from the beauty of the incredible puppets.
Seeming to channel the aesthetics of a graphic novel, Rae Smith’s beautiful illustrations serve as a backdrop to the action on stage as they are projected on a large screen that looks like a piece of paper torn out of a sketchbook. The set is simple, sepia toned and gorgeous in its unfussyness. While there are some slower moments in Act I, things definitely pick up in Act II and the beauty of this classic story shines through the violence of war.
“War Horse” is playing through November 3rd at The Landmark Theatre.
www.landmark.net for information
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
“Every season, we look forward to bringing the best of Broadway direct to Richmond and presenting all of these shows at the beautiful Altria Theater.”April 7, 2016
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