Intro : “Incredible. Beautiful. Emotionally amazing. I could not live without this book! ” Ella from Hampshire. “This was the best book I have ever read. Words can’t describe how good it was. Just read it. ” Jordan from America. “I thought War Horse was brilliant! It is the most touching book I have ever read, and I would recommend it to anyone, even if they aren’t animal lovers! ” concurs Megan from Stafford. This is one of the best books I have ever read and I would recommend it to everyone as it not only touches the hearts of any animal lover, but it also shows you the dreadful conditions of the First World War and the hardships they must have faced. ” Grace from England. “This book was recommended to me by a friend and to put it into a few words… I loved it. I laughed and cried, I love reading. ” Jessica from Tamworth. Plot : The story is narrated by the horse, Joey – which I wasn’t expecting.
He tells the reader of his experience at the farm where he is raised by Albert, his experience in France during the war and of the friendships he makes along the way. He sees some awful things in France, a fair amount of death and hurt, but what shines through this book is love – he has people care for him and he develops lovely friendships with many people in the book. He has Albert, the boy who raised him and trained him on the farm; Topthorne, a fellow horse in war with him and Emilie, a little French girl who looks after both him and Topthorne whilst they are camped at her grandfather’s farm.
Friendship is the key factor in this book, and it can clearly be seen throughout the book. Told through the eyes of the book’s protagonist, Joey the horse, the story manages to provide a neutral statement on the attrocities of war. Joey, a tall red thoroughbred who takes the breath away from anyone who looks at him, is taken from his stable in Devon and thrown into a war zone. Here he meets friends and enemies, but the distinction between the two is not based on German vs English.
He relates with those who are nice and fears those who threaten him. It is Joey’s friendships that help make the book work as well as it does. Equestrian friend Topthorn offers hope when despair surrounds them whilst friendly officers and youthful German Emillie only have Joey’s best interests at heart. It is Joey’s relationship with original owner Albert that is most touching, the two only being separated by the onslaught of war.
The brave and hopeful language used throughout the book is inspiring, as is Joey’s commitment to his friends. There are some truly worrying moments toward the end of the book whilst the vivid moments of battle bring the reality of war back to the reader. Joey’s will and determination, perhaps best signified in his unifying trip into no man’s land, is inspiring and forms the crux of the book. Not just a children’s book, War Horse is a delightful, if rather harrowing, read, telling the story of friendship overcoming the horrors of war.
Script-wise, War Horse is nothing to send you galloping home having seen a tightly drawn play. The ecstatic result you’ll feel at the end happens because of the magnificent puppets. There are various birds (vultures, songbirds and one sassy goose), but it’s the horses, of courses, that make this a ticket worth buying — once for you, and a few more times as early Christmas presents for your friends and family. They won’t require anything more.
Designed by Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones for South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, Joey and his full-grown-horse co-star, Topthorn, are life-size, graceful creations each puppeteered by three humans (Christopher Mai, Derek Stratton and Rob Laqui for the red thoroughbred Joey; and Jon Hoche, Danny Beiruti and Aaron Haskell for the black beauty Topthorn). Puppets whose manipulators are in view of the audience (such as in bunraku, the closest style to what we get here) are a success when you stop noticing their humans. That happens surprisingly soon here. Almost immediately.
The puppeteers, in costumes of the era like the other actors playing human characters, move fluidly and cohesively as one gorgeous beast, which is a feat when you consider that the horse is exceedingly graceful for such a large mammal. The trio make the equine sounds together, and give Joey a distinct personality through movements of the ears, tail and head. Still, the play wouldn’t be nearly as successful or popular without the sharp design and effortless maneuverability of the horse puppets. There’s an anti-war story here, but the bigger theme is the love story between man and animal. And ultimately, between audience and theatricality.
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