Sunday, June 17, 2012
When the movie War Horse came out last year, I couldn’t watch the trailer without sobbing. The idea that a young man’s horse could be sold into conscription during World War I—where millions of horses died—just sent me over the edge. I vowed I would never see the movie, even though I pretty much adore everything Steven Spielberg does.
But then the Ahmanson Theatre held a special “open house” event, in February, to introduce Joey, the life-sized puppet horse that was going to star in the play version of War Horse. I went with Karen and immediately fell in love with Joey, who is made out of cane and fabric and looks, with the help of his human puppeteers, like a real horse. I decided then that I would go see War Horse at the Ahmanson once it arrived this summer.
Tim and I saw the play last night. To say that the staging was amazing would be a huge understatement. Joey and his equine companion Topthorn looked, sounded and behaved exactly like real horses. At one point, Joey came out into the audience—coincidentally on our side of the theater—so we got to see his mechanisms up close. When he reappeared, a couple of scenes later, we could hear him first—snorting and shaking his head—before he passed by us again on his way to the stage. The puppetry was truly uncanny.
Which, of course, makes the story almost impossible to bear, if you love animals, like many of us, who were in the audience, do. The horrors of war were so perfectly depicted that I spent much of the play crying, mourning the loss of soldiers and horses alike. The play is a masterpiece of human actors interacting with puppets, but it’s also a powerful anti-war statement that I may never forget.
For more about horses during WWI and Joey, in particular, see CBS’s “Making the Magic of War Horse” below.