Sunday, June 17, 2012

War Horse

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.


Ginny said...

The book for children and young teens by Michael Morpugo is pretty wonderful too.

Cyn said...

Ginny: I was devastated by the play--lots of death and brutality. I know kids are often hardier than some of us adults give them credit for, but I'm wondering how young readers have handled War Horse the book. Do you know? cm

Ginny said...

I have no first-hand knowledge about how this book has been received by children or teens. I suspect that it is not widely read although the movie may have generated some interest. Children who are animal lovers often respond with righteous indignation -- as well as tears -- at stories of animal cruelty. I read BLACK BEAUTY over and over as a child, crying each time and railing at the injustice of the mistreatment of the horse. And at least in WAR HORSE, the animal and Albert are reunited in the end, both having served their country in the war.