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Monday, 22 October 2018

Theatre Review: War Horse at the Milton Keynes Theatre

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I have wanted to see the stage production of War Horse for years, ever since I first heard that it would soon be coming to the West End. I watched the film (a definite must-watch, by the way) and was lucky enough to attend the War Horse themed prom at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall a few years ago. So when I heard that the production was doing a UK tour and was coming to Milton Keynes, I knew it would be rude not to go along!

The Milton Keynes Theatre is one of the closest venues to me that actually hosts productions that will draw in the crowds. It's a modern theatre in appearance, something which is immediately evident through its design, yet still has the capacity to host a myriad of touring shows fresh from the West End.

I last visited the Milton Keynes Theatre back in June to see a stand-out performance of Matilda, so was excited to come back so soon to tick another show off my 'must-watch' list.

Set during World War One, War Horse follows the tale of Albert, a young farmer's son from the south of England. Following a drunken bet, Albert's father ends up bringing home Joey - a young horse who the family can barely afford to keep. Albert is tasked with training and caring for Joey, tasks which see horse and boy develop an unbreakable bond.

When the war breaks out, Joey is sold to the war effort and shipped to France, where he embarks on a journey like no other, serving on both sides of the war. Although still too young to officially sign up, Albert's desire to bring Joey home sees no boundaries, and before long, he too is caught up in the midst of the war, striving to survive long enough to find his beloved horse once more.

With such a degree of historical significance as well as a dramatic tale and sweeping landscape, it is a true testament to the skill of the team behind the production that War Horse is as strong as it is. So much could go wrong, but in reality, all the different elements come together magnificently to create a truly memorable, poignant play.

The staging is simple yet incredibly effective. Largely, much of the war landscapes are down to the skill of the actors coupled with the audience's imagination, yet the battlefields of France, the atmosphere of the trenches and the apprehensiveness of those left waiting behind at home could not be portrayed more effectively.

Of course, no review would be complete without a mention of Joey and the other horses in the production. Incredibly lifelike, the animals are actually life-size puppets, operated by a team of master puppeteers and created by the talented people at the Handspring Puppet Company. It is such a brilliant idea and one which allows horses, crows, a goose and more to bring the stage to life in such a wonderfully innovative way. By the end of the production, you've all but forgotten that they aren't real animals!

Although the War Horse tour has now moved on from Milton Keynes, there are still plenty of chances to catch the show for yourself! Find out more over on the official site.

Have you seen War Horse? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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