War Horse has returned to the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, presented by National Theatre, and I was so excited to be invited along to the opening night of the production on Thursday. The Mayflower is an iconic theatre, with decades old decor and a line up of fantastic shows, and to see War Horse there was really special.
Michael Morpurgo is a fantastic writer of novels aimed at children, and I loved his books as a child – however, War Horse is a story I did not know much about, which made seeing it on stage a little more exciting. War Horse is so popular in theatres now, ten years after the novel was written, that it has become the best seller over every other National Theatre production. The play of War Horse is currently on its second UK tour from 2017 to 2019, and is playing to audiences in the 100th year since the end of the First World War.
In 1914, British soldiers and their horses left their homes and went to fight in France and Belgium, many of them to never return. War Horse is a stunning marriage of history and fiction, which makes for a captivating and interesting play. Michael Morpurgo says, ‘War Horse is not simply a show or a play about a war, a horse and a boy. It is an anthem for peace, and reflects, I think, a universal longing for a world without war‘ – fantastic, thought-provoking words from the author.
War Horse is the story of a boy, Albert, and his bond with his horse, Joey. It is set during the First World War – so if you do visit, you need to be prepared as it is set in a tragic time in our history. Bring tissues! I won’t go into the storyline in much detail, as I loved seeing the show without knowing too much of the story.
Joey is an extraordinary puppet, created by the Handspring Puppet Company in Cape Town – and I honestly didn’t believe that a puppet could be brought to life in the way that the cast managed. Every movement of Joey was well thought through and so clever – the ears twitched, the horse breathed and the tail moved so realistically. Joey’s character in the novel was portrayed as being inquisitive, energetic and full of life, and the National Theatre brought him to life in the most amazing way.
The lighting throughout the play created the feeling of being where the play was set – right in the trenches, amongst the fighting – I was completely mesmerised by it all. The songs throughout were written and sung in a Devonshire, folk style, and were so emotive and beautiful to listen to. I am personally not the greatest fan of musicals, but in War Horse each song told a part of the story, and I really enjoyed listening to the music. The set changes were so seamless and well executed that I found I didn’t actually notice things being moved around the stage, until the next scene had actually begun.
One of the stand out characters in War Horse was the Goose – which brought a fantastic touch of comedy and light-heartedness into quite a serious play. The puppet was again so lifelike, and had a great personality.
The play had me on the edge of my seat pretty much the entire time, with some gunfire and explosions on stage – which set the scene so well for during the First World War.
As you can probably tell, I had a fantastic evening seeing War Horse, and really enjoyed the play. The story was captivating and clever, the cast were all flawless and I would recommend booking to watch War Horse while it is still at the Mayflower.
You can see War Horse at the Mayflower until 9th June – find out more here. The Mayflower is closing shortly after War Horse and through the Summer for a refurbishment – I’m very excited to visit when they re-open to sit in their brand new, spacious seats. If you’ve already been to the Mayflower, you will know how cosy their current seating arrangement is!
If you do visit War Horse – which you should – I hope you have a fantastic time! I’m pretty sure it is the best production I’ve ever seen.
* I was kindly invited along to watch War Horse as part of Southampton Bloggers – all opinions are my own! (But it was truly amazing) *