Earlier this week we spent a few days in Manchester before the end of the school holidays to go shopping and see the Coronation Street Tour and whilst we were there we wanted to see a show, the only one on at the Bank holiday weekend was War Horse. One of our family had recommended it and we (my mum, anty and I) were not sure but we watched the advert and my anty really liked the look of it so we decided to go and watch it. My mum and I had been dreading the evening as we didn't like the look from the advert but we went for my anty as she has always done so for us when we've wanted to see something.
The show was showing at The Lowry in Salford and we had booked a VIP package meaning we got a meal and programme as part of the price. We had a lovely meal before the show and the staff were very helpful and left our dessert and drinks at our table for the interval and very kindly looked after our shopping for us during the first half of the show.
War Horse is about a young man Albert and his horse Joey who after many obstacles ended up becoming a War Horse. After an unexpected occurrence Albert follows in the footsteps of Joey to find his much loved horse.
How the horses were done and the little touches like the birds were very clever but I did not expect to see the three people controlling the horses like we did. The actors were very good at what they did but personally the story was not to my liking. I have never liked watching war or animal stories so I didn't have high expectations.
I was pleasantly surprised by the music and some singing which I did not expect as it was labelled as a drama rather than a musical.
In all honesty, I did not enjoy the show at all and couldn't wait for it to end. We were sat on the front row right in the middle and myself and my mum were so bored we nearly fell asleep during the show. I don't think it was a bad show, just not to our preferences. My anty thought it was brilliant and thoroughly enjoyed the show. I felt like some parts of the show were dragged on too long, I'm sure it felt like five or ten minutes deciding by flipping a coin who was getting the horse and I just wanted to go home so didn't think that needed to be that long.
Overall I think this was the worst show I have seen but only as I prefer girlier shows. If you like war stories I am sure you would love it but if not maybe not the show for you.
I was a big fan of the novel of Warhorse and when I heard of it becoming a stage production I was so excited!
The use of puppets for the horses, animals and some of the characters I believe had an amazing effect! 5 minutes into the production I completely forgot that what I was seeing on stage were in fact puppets and not real. I found I became attached from the horses from the beginning and found it difficult to accept that they were in fact puppets. It is so cleverly done that you even forget the people who control the puppets and just see the puppet as one real thing and you can't help but become emotionally attached to the horse/puppet.
My worst worry was if it was going to stick to the novel and to my relief it does and does not miss anything important out. I believe the actors live up to their character descriptions in the novel and so does the horse Joey. Another benefit is that it allows the audience to realise the true horrors of the First World War through a different setting, through the eyes of the horse.
I believe that this is a 'must see' production and I have not read one single negative review about it, I have already booked my second viewing of it.
Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse opened at the National Theatre on London's South Bank in 2007. It was an overnight sensation with every ticket selling out quickly and having completed its run, returned to the Theatre the following year. By popular demand the production transferred to the New London Theatre in the West End, where it has been playing to packed houses ever since. Today it is one of the only ongoing shows in London which attracts a full audience every night and continues to sell out to the point where good tickets must be purchased months in advance.
= The story =
After a drunken argument with his brother, Albert's father bids on a young horse during an auction and ends up spending the family's savings. Albert begins to take care of the horse he names 'Joey' and it becomes obvious that Joey is a special horse. During the First World War the horse is sold by his father much to Albert's anger, to the cavalry and taken to France on an epic journey that sees him serving on both sides in the war. Back home in England, Albert cannot forget Joey or forgive his father and so begins a dangerous mission to the trenches to find him and bring him home.
The show is based on the Michael Morpurgo's book of the same name which is a popular children's story, however it is not a book I've read so I knew nothing about what I was about to see.
= The show =
Before the show, I had no idea how they were going to bring the War Horse to life. All I knew about the story was that there was a boy with a horse and that they were the main characters. I assumed that a real life horse was brought out onto stage every night until a work colleague informed me, to my disappoinment that they used puppets. Puppets?! Really?! I had an image of something similar to the Maggie Thatcher huge puppet in Billy Elliott - how wrong I was! I had no idea just how amazing these puppets would be! The horses are life size models and are assisted around the stage flawlessly by three people. One person looks after the head and runs around next to the horse while two people are inside the horse and operate the legs and body. It is very well executed and audience members were open mouthed at the start!
The production also includes an original score composed by John Tams. The music in War Horse actually wasn't my cup of tea at all. Rather than big group numbers like in Wicked or songs that help tell the story like in Les Miserables, the music was either background mood music or Irish folk type songs sung by a guy who randomly appeared at sad moments throughout the show to sing. Mum and dad loved it but I wasn't as taken with it, although it did help to set a sad, sombre mood.
= The acting =
Those who know me or have read my reviews will know that I love the theatre and go at least once a month. I'm generally a musical theatre girl but also see a lot of other shows and am familiar with a lot of West End actors, however I didn't recognise any of the names in War Horse.
The puppeteers were fantastic and could not have done a better job. Nigel Betts who played the father was excellent but he did have the most interesting role to play and the best character to get into! He was also a police officer later in the show and did a great job in this role too. Albert was the main character but I was not particular impressed by Matthew Aubrey's interpretation. He had a good relationship with his horse and it must be very difficult to act alongside an inanimate object. He was playing a young boy but it was still all a little bit too whiney for me!
= Theatre =
The theatre is an unusual layout with everyone almost sitting together in each of the two levels.
Located in the Aldwych area near Covent Garden station in a perfect spot for eating out or having a drink. Covent Garden has lots of restaurants, of which the majority provide a pre-theatre menu for a reasonable price. There are also many chain restaurants around such as Pizza Express, Zizzi and La Tasca all of which regularly offer 50% off or 2 for 1 on main meals which I like to take advantage of when I'm at the theatre! It is also within walking distance from several other underground stations including Holborn, Leicester Square and Embankment.
I would never advise driving and parking in London because it's more hassle than it's worth, however there is a large NCP car park in Parker Mews, directly below the New London Theatre should you wish to park.
New London Theatre
= Tickets =
The show is currently booking into 2012 and shows no sign of losing its appeal. It is one of the hardest shows to get tickets for and they regularly sell out in advance. I went to see it with my mum and dad and had to book at quite short notice (for a midweek showing). We paid £45 per ticket for lower level side of stage tickets which is expensive for seats that aren't the best in house or even close! However, there was still a good view as there was from most areas of the theatre. I have never seen War Horse tickets on offer which again is very rare for a West End show, especially during the week.
The National Theatre website currently has no tickets available for the next month. After that tickets can be purchased for between £39 - £49 midweek and up to £55-85 for Easter weekend. If you are able to book further in advance it is advisable as tickets can be bought much cheaper and at a variety of prices.
£15 - restricted view circle seats
£25 - restricted view stalls seats
£39-49 - stalls and circle seats
£85 - stalls premium seats
= The future =
War Horse has been so popular during its West End run that tickets are still selling up to mid 2012. There is no doubt that this will be extended. It will also open on Broadway in March 2011.
Stephen Spielberg's new movie adaptation of the novel has been in talks for years and is due to be released by Dreamworks in late 2011.
= Overall =
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, War Horse has become a West End phenomemon playing to packed audiences since it began. It has subsequently broken the record for the highest weekly gross for a play in the West End and has welcomed over a million guests. I personally thought it a lovely story and a wonderful, impressive production, but it didn't grip me like some other shows have and I don't think I would see it again (unless it was paid for!)
I would give War Horse 7/10 which I think is an great score, however for Dooyoo purposes I'm going to go with 3/5 as it doesn't quite grab the fourth for me. I know this will not be a popular rating for a well-loved show but I've seen too many shows that I have enjoyed more. However, I would still recommend it for all ages.