They say “never work with animals or children” – but I think a solution has been found for the former, if not the latter (yet)! I went to see Warhorse at the New London Theatre last week and although in all aspects it’s a fabulous piece of “must-see” theatre – the stand-out stars of the show are without ANY question the animatronic horses (and of course the cameo from the goose).
I cannot begin to describe just how riveting those horses are – and I don’t just mean in their fine mechanical construction! It is almost unbelievable how believable they are. Their movements, even when stationary and not part of the main scene are so mesmerising that it’s difficult to comprehend that they are mechanically operated. These puppets, including the way the operators (or should that be “handlers”?) are integrated is an amazing accomplishment of the South African based Handspring Puppet Company.
The Warhorse story itself, based on the Michael Morpurgo book, is simple enough and cleverly constructed – the first half taking its time to build the characters and develop the core relationship and understanding between Albert and Joey. The second half is a non-stop tour de force of breathtaking scenes that make the most of the talented ensemble cast, rotating stage and those amazing animatronic animals. The ending is very appropriate and handled in a very dignified, non-hollywood style which I very much appreciated.
It will be very interesting to see how the magic of this piece of theatre translates to the big screen later this year when Spielberg’s adaptation is released.
I am sure the associated “making of” DVD and book give some fun insights into how it all came together, and you can catch a preview here, but it’s the forthcoming TED presentation featuring Handspring hat I am keen to see when the edit is complete!