Review – War Horse, National Theatre

Thursday 11 October 2007

Maybe it was jet-lag, but suddenly the Whingers’ 11+ hour flight from Peru seemed like a breeze compared with the 80-minute first act of War Horse at the National Theatre.

At least KLM provided the Whingers with some in-flight entertainment. Perhaps the National might follow suit and introduce seat-back systems featuring a massive menu of plays from which to choose? And maybe some games. Think about it, Nick. After all, the NFT (we still refuse to call it the BFI Southbank) seems to have thrown the towel in regarding its programming and now lets you watch what you want from 600 titles in its “mediatheque”.

Yet the evening had begun so promisingly.

As the Whingers sat down for their first pre-theatre bottle of Merlot at Canteen, their attention was drawn by an excited French waitress to the many police vehicles littering up the area. “The Queen is coming!” she cried.

Now this was a bit unexpected. Quite a few people have welcomed the Whingers back to London but we had no idea that Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith was a fan.

Phil got into quite a tizzy and proceeded to practise his curtsey, knocking a glass of wine over in the process. Andrew leapt into action by throwing Phil’s coat into the resulting puddle to save Her Maj’s sensible court shoes from getting soiled and, perhaps predictably, a row ensued.

Anyway, there must have been some kind of mix-up because the poor woman ended up being guided to a rather dull sounding Royal Gala at the Royal Festival Hall apparently featuring some amateur choirs including Billinghurst Choral Society and the London Forest Choir from Walthamstow and where she ended up chatting with Billy Bragg and getting his autograph (we’re not making this bit up).

Thankfully, the Whingers were reassuringly back on home territory once inside the National Theatre and trying to deposit their suitcases (we had practically come straight from the airport) at the Olivier cloakroom which had been horrendously understaffed (to be fair, how could they have possibly known they were going to get a sudden rush of people at 7.20?).

Not wishing to attract another scolding by attempting to use an alternative cloakroom (this is forbidden under the National Theatre’s bye-laws), the Whingers waited obediently alongside a woman whose patience was being tested to her limits. Having been overlooked several times, she interjected with”I don’t wish to be rude…” but her pleas fell on deaf ears. The Whingers egged her on to be rude but she seemed to sense that she was being used for some ulterior purpose (i.e. cheap copy) and kept buttoned.

So, to the play. Things got off to a worrying start as actors with earnest faces sporting fishing rods with birds on the end of them wafted around the stage. Phil became anxious: he’d seen this somewhere before recently, where was it? Oh, yes – in the excellent Saint Joan by the same director (Marianne Elliott) on the very same stage. Only at SJ they’d nearly poked out the eye of someone sitting in the front stalls, so these guys weren’t taking any chances and played it very safe keeping the line completely reeled in. Most disappointing.

Anyway, in case you have no idea what we’re talking about, War Horse is a children’s book by the prolific Michael Morpurgo who – with 100 books under his belt – seems to be the Barbara Cartland of children’s literature.

He was apparently Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005. Now the Whingers – both being happily childless and Phil almost certainly being barren by now – had no idea that such a post even existed but according to Wikipedia “the position was established after a campaign spearheaded by Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and children’s writer Michael Morpurgo” which has given the Whingers a fantastic idea and we are going to spearhead a campaign for a Whinging Laureate although the DCMS is going to have to stump up more than £10k every two years to keep Phil in Wet Ones.

[Apologies at this point if we seem to be not talking very much about the play but we are “locating it in the wider discourse”]

Anyway, the point is that Nick Stafford’s adaptation of this children’s book about the First World War “told” through the eyes of a horse is apparently “suitable for 12 year olds and above” ostensibly because there’s a lot of death in it, but moreover because in rehearsals it was running at 3 hours 20 minutes. Now it is just 3 hours long according to the programme but we can’t testify to that for the usual reasons.

To be fair, everything you heard about the puppetry from the National’s propaganda machine is true.  The Handspring Puppet Company has produced some fantastic work – the horses are incredibly lifelike in form and behaviour and imbued with emotions that one wouldn’t have thought possible. It’s fascinating to watch.  For about 20 minutes.

Then boredom sets in and you start watching the people manipulating them instead.  There were so many hands inside the horse that Phil was put in mind of All Creatures Great and Small and came over all queasy until he became distracted by the ear-plug sported by one of the puppeteers.

Co-directors Marianne Elliott (who we used to like) and Tom Morris have opted to transform this slight story into an epic piece of theatre but unfortunately “epic” is defined as “protracted” in the Whingers’ dictionary: interminable singing (the kind where ev-ry syll-a-ble is em-pha-sised) brings the already torpid pace to a complete standstill at times. And did we really need a brass band? By the time the accordion was trundled on Phil was beginning to wish that he was back struggling for air in a draughty adobe brick hut at 4,200 metres on a Lake Titicaca island without electricity or proper toilets.

There’s only so much puppetry an adult mind can take (Andrew can, of course, cope with slightly more than Phil) however good it is, and the Whingers made their excuses and their escape at the interval.

Were the Whingers’ brains working at double speed with their sudden rush of oxygen or was this production really as plodding as it seemed? Let us just say that Would-Be Whinger Mark also left in the interval of his own volition. And this is a man who enjoys listening to recorder music. Let’s just leave it at that.

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47 Responses to “Review – War Horse, National Theatre”


  1. Lovely to have you chaps back – and with whinge intact, I see, despite recent oxygen/wine deprivation.


  2. “At least KLM provided the Whingers with some in-flight entertainment. Perhaps the National might follow suit.”

    This is brilliantly savage – I wish I’d thought of saying it first.

    >[Apologies at this point if we seem to be not talking very much >about the play but we are “locating it in the wider discourse”]

    and I think I just disturbed my entire street with the violent shriek of laughter that this provoked. :-)

  3. Lindiop Says:

    You are priceless and were much missed during your recent absence! I’m still giggling about ‘locating it in the wider discourse’.

  4. Arch Proscenium Says:

    I have to say, as amusing as your reviews are, I thought War Horse a stunning piece of work. OK so it’s not perfect, but then again little that hits the Olivier stage is. But it made me weep. And not just because the huge woman sitting next to me caused me to sit in my seat at such an awkward angle I developed back ache within 15 minutes of the start.

    Talking to a cast member afterwards he let slip that there were some “clunky” bits that still need to be ironed out. Which is something I can understand. Still, I would happily sit through this a second time.

  5. bernie Says:

    Judging by the date of the post, you must have seen a first or second preview, too – shouldn’t you mention that somewhere? I don’t know about Marianne elliott, but Morris’ shows are notorious for undergoing crazy changes in preview – look at matter of life and death.. I haven’t seen it but word elsewhere about this seems to be positive (although i understand accordions can be the end of the line). ??

  6. David Says:

    Great review, but an early preview, so perhaps somewhat waspishly misplaced. The play has been shorn of 30 minutes and runs a tight 2 and half hours. Everyone around us were fighting over a small supply of tissues, set off by a poor woman at the front who lost it completely and let out a howl of anguish. No it was not the Queen. The play is at times somewhat one-dimensional, and the characters do not develope as one would expect in a more mature piece for the the-atre. However, how often does one identify with a fabulous horse as the romantic lead (apart from our own dear Emma T) and cheer as the play draws to a very quiet and understated close. By the way, the appearance of the tank is quite one of the most frightening things on the London stage. Go, and be prepared to weep copiously.


  7. A tank???? Why weren’t we told???

    And just to settle this preview thing once and for all:

    We paid the same as the people who will go after it opens and we have the right to expect it to be finished.

    Thank you.

    PS: but love the phrase “waspishly misplaced”; we shall be using it and passing it off as our own.

  8. Alex Says:

    Hang on… how did you manage to pay the same as people who will go after it opens? NT previews are always cheaper.

  9. westendwhinger Says:

    Front stalls are £10 for previews and regular performances.
    So yes we paid the same as a regular post press-night punter would to sit in the same seats.
    Plus we’re taking a risk that it will be rubbish. Which it so often is.

  10. LondonDonal Says:

    Whingers are right. Saw the 2 1/2 hour version. I grant you the first appearance of the big horse was stunning and I did cry at the end – I even liked the music. But this wasn’t enough to make up for the over stretched narrative and the patronising country bumpkin characterisations. This was a show where a flappy thing at the end of a long stick was exactly that – a flappy thing at the end of a long stick. This from someone who usually likes this sort of thing.

  11. LondonMicheline Says:

    Boy loves horse. Says his name, “Joey” about 50 times. Boy loses horse. Boy finds horse.

    It took 2 1/2 hours at the last preview and was so boring I went to sleep twice. Gruff sergeant major shouted at contry bumkin boy but was kind really. One interesting charactrers was the German who. who changed unifrom with a lower rank but he got killed quite soon after.

    Lost count of male actors (18 ? or so) versus female actors (2 or so?).

    Both my grandmothers were deeply scarred by the first world war (one lost a brother, the other a husband) and yet as is so often the case the stories of women are completely ignored.

    Oh dear. The puppetry was good for a little while.

    I am a secondary school drama teacher and am constantly looking for new plays to take students to. CORAM BOYS just about passed muster (despite women playing the roles or boys) but WAR HORSE was so-o-o boring.

    Ho hum…back to BLOOD BROTHERS the only play we can find that enthuses teenagers…( I have seen it 24 times…)

    • SKW84 Says:

      I am a little concerned by the spelling and grammar in this comment. Basic English should surely be a staple of anyone in the teaching profession?

      Perhaps at least reading what the play was about may have helped (the battle fields of World War One didn’t really feature many women)? The book was actually written to honour the 8 million or so horses killed during WW1, whilst touching on the plight of the men who served with them at the same time. I first read it when I was six years old, and twenty years later it is still my favourite of all time. Any educated person with a fraction of compassion cannot fail to be moved by such a story. The puppets are a masterpiece and John Tams is, to quote Anne, a musical genius. How can a combination such as this fail to delight and enthuse?

      I have the feeling that ‘Glee’ might be more to your taste…

  12. ANNE GILES Says:

    I would have found BLOOD BROTHERS horribly boring. If you are the type that likes yukky musicals with yukky music, then why go and see something which has the wonderful music of John Tams? He is a genius and I would never miss anything with his music in it.

  13. ANNE GILES Says:

    Well – we saw the play on Friday, and would happily see it again. It was wonderful – I cried at the end. The puppetry excellent, the music fantastic, the seats couldn’t have been better either. The children in the audience were absolutely thrilled.

  14. Uncle Boko Says:

    Absolutely first class production, what is this nonsense about country bumpkins? Remember this was early 20th century in Devon – and what better than an all purpose National Theatre Lark Rise out of London accent (totally devoid of oik influence).

    I ask a question – which song used in Candleford, was sung to a different tune in War Horse?

  15. ANNE GILES Says:

    It was also nice to be surrounded by an extremely nice, middle class audience with well behaved children.

  16. minä Says:

    having read the play before seeing it, i was positively surprised at what they made of it as the play isn’t exactly the greatest peace of writing. in my eyes, the production more than made up for the shortcomings of the text. the puppetry was excellent!

  17. Londondonal Says:

    It heartens me to hear that ms Giles was able to enjoy her evening of middle class theatre surrounded by her middle class peers. I wonder how she felt when those horrid working class people were killed off, safe in the knowledge that enough of them were kept alive so that they could live to pay taxes which subsidise her wonderful seats. Perhaps she would like to start a campaign to ban them from the National altogether, although as she has observed, this is probably not necessary.

    • SKW84 Says:

      I think what Anne was trying to put across, and unfortunately only like-minded people will be perceptive enough to understand, is that the kind of person who would view a play such as War Horse is not going to be the kind whose idea of a good drama is watching Kerry Katona on ITV2 and whose children are on medication for ADHD, an accepted ‘disease’ predominantly caused by useless parenting. And I am not middle class, I am working class.

  18. Bonzo3legs Says:

    I fully agree with Anne Giles.


  19. War Horse is a children’s book, but with very specific philosophy for us too.

  20. elsie bee Says:

    Sorry guys, you’re very funny but it’s NOT funny to have a go at a show in previews. You may have paid the same (in the cheapest seats in the house) as a post-press night audience, but they are advertised as previews and therefore you take the risk that you are not seeing the finished product. Don’t be obnoxious.

  21. Helen Smith Says:

    Elsie Bee

    I saw the show yesterday and thought it was wonderful – I cried all the way through the second half.

    However, I think you are wrong to take issue with the Whingers for reviewing a show they have paid money to see. What else can they do except write about what they have seen? They certainly can’t write about the version of the show you have seen – or the one I saw.

    Surely a preview is just that – an opportunity to see a show before it has been reviewed by the press, sometimes at slightly reduced prices, sometimes not. The reduction in price reflects the fact that you don’t know until you read the reviews whether you are going to see a dud or not. You are taking a gamble and the theatre is selling seats.

    I realise that there may be some tweaking to be done but it is not a dress rehearsal or a scratch night, for which you might reasonably expect to pay about 5.00 (which is what the Royal Ballet charge for a dress rehearsal and the BAC charge for a scratch night, for example).

    If a theatre charges full price or knocks only a couple of pounds off the usual price during previews so that they can fill the house while they concentrate on getting the show right for the all-important press night but takes umbrage if a punter points out its short-comings, then it is they who are being obnoxious.

    You are only saving a few pounds by going to a preview, in a deal most likely to appeal to poor people and theatre buffs. It is like buying a chicken that is nearing its sell-by date for a reduced price in Sainsbury’s. You don’t expect the thing to actually poison you.

    If previews are to be treated as privileged information, with the shows somehow aired ‘in confidence’, then the theatres should throw open their doors for nothing, or charge only a nominal fee. Not only that, they need to say so on their websites. I have seen shows advertised as ‘previews’ but I have never, ever seen it written anywhere that this means they are a work in progress and that you shouldn’t expect them to be any good.

    Finally, getting snippy because the Whingers were sitting in “the cheapest seats in the house” (oh, the shame!) kind of misses the point of the inclusivity of the wonderful ten pound seats initiative at the NT, doesn’t it?

    Aw, sorry Elsie (and Andrew and Phil). I’ve gone on a bit. No hard feelings, Elsie. You may very well be connected to the production and trying to protect the actors and others involved in it, which is a very understandable reaction. Obviously, because of the ephemeral nature of theatre, a press review can serve as a historical record of a production (video doesn’t count, it’s always so flat and uninvolving) which is why you want the press night to be the best it possibly can be, and why press reviewers politely stay away from previews.

    But this is a blog. There is a huge difference. Press reviews tell the reader what sort of show the reader can expect to see. Blogs talk about the show the blogger has seen. It’s different.

    So anyway, don’t take anything you read on a blog too much to heart. It’s not about you. It’s about them. That’s why it’s so funny.

  22. Mopsa Says:

    Have just seen War Horse at the end of its current run: boys, boys, I must say that as brilliantly written as your piece is, it’s just wrong, wrong, wrong.

    War Horse

    http://mopsa.blogspot.com/2008/02/war-horse.html

  23. George Bailey Says:

    Saw the final show of War Horse last night. Slick, clever and imaginative stage production, and the puppetry was amazing, but felt the first half in particular was, how shall I put this… a cross between Old Bamboo from Mary Poppins (too many sticks) and Sesame Street. Then again it is based on a kids’ book so perhaps I’m being harsh.
    Things definitely picked up in the second half and the appearance of the tank was astounding.
    Loved the music and there is no denying the play packs an emotional punch, and yes I blubbed like a 14 stone baby.
    In fact, I haven’t seen so many grown men grizzle since watching Kevin Costner get to play catch with his dead dad at the end of Field of Dreams. And is that a bad thing? Not playing catch with your dead dad (or any dead person… it’s wrong according to the police), but grown-up Guardian-reading, wine-supping, Tuscany-holidaying old gits sobbing (or trying not to).

  24. Kitty Says:

    I saw War Horse, and I cried when I saw it! Maybe most of you who went to it where adults, this show is for adults yes but it is more aimed at children/young teens/young adults…Blood Brothers and War Horse have both made me cry and I do not usually cry.

    If you didn’t like it then why did you go? But anyway, great review apart from the negitive bits about War Horse…it is coming back for another turn at the end of this year!

  25. drneil Says:

    Saw the latest production of Warhorse in December 2008. Well the first half anyway.

    I am amazed that no one has commented about the banality of the script, with dialogue used to clumsily explain the plot. For example in the auction scene the uncle refers to the other bidder as “my brother”. People do not talk to each other like this.

    When the church bell tolls and a cast member steps forward and explains that war has been declared, that is the first we learn about the possibility of war. That could have been woven into the dialogue when explaining the relationship of the brothers and the behaviour of Albert’s father.

    It is generally well staged although the scene illustrating the fleet sailing to France becomes self parody. When such care has been taken producing full scale horses with lifelike movement, the sight of a group of actors wobbling across the stage while holding models of warships is not clever, it’s just funny.

    The horses are well realised and most of the staging is well done, but none of this should forgive a poor script with poor characterisation. Just because this production is aimed at children there is no excuse for short-changing them.

    In the end the banality of the script and poverty of the acting proved too much and I had to give this play the accolade of an interval exit.

  26. AJK Says:

    The horses were amazing, astounding, as they picked at grass, reacted to events, the ears in particular were superb. The first cavalry charge was great to look at very powerful and the two old horses pulling the gun carriage equally strong. The goose stole the show without a doubt and took an appropriate curtain call. What else? Set design and art was good liked that very much not so sure about references to Percy and Paul, though, but v good nevertheless and the tank (the tank!) was also pretty good especially when it threatened to wipe out those much despised £10 stalls seats at one point.

    But tears? Tragedy of War? Nope. Every time events onstage provoked a scintilla of emotional response some idiot (the third Grundy brother?) shouted out “Joey” in such an irritating way that you wanted to shove your way past the legions of (fidgety but otherwise well-behaved) schoolchildren, get up onto the stage and slap him. There was no development or insight into any of the humans (agree with the comment wrt women) which would have allowed us to glimpse the pointlessness, tragedy and waste of war and as the central character was a dumb animal, we could hardly identify with that either. OK so many horses died but these were the equivalent of the red-jersey-wearing guys in star trek; anonymous and always for the chop (apologies to galaxy quest). Our hero Joey, meanwhile, came through bloodied but unbowed. How much more powerful for starters it would have been for him to have died also. As it was the over-riding (!) feeling was that “it was all ok” and it most certainly wasn’t all ok in WW1, not for the animals nor for the men nor for the women involved.

    Given the audience, however, it is difficult to be too hard on Warhorse. It was a children’s book and is now a children’s play and as such it is excellent. Had the revolver not jammed when Joey was about to be shot I suspect that five hundred 13-yr old girls would have lynched the sergeant then and there and that the play provoked such a response is to its credit.

    But just as you used to cringe when you saw grown-ups reading Harry Potter on the tube, so should adults be aware that they will be short changed if they want any kind of a profound experience from this play.

  27. Rebekah Says:

    Saw Warhorse last night. I wish I’d stayed at home and buffed my entire glassware collection. OK, the puppets were amazing, let’s get that out of the way. However, I haven’t seen such diabolical acting since my mum pretended to like the scarf I bought her for Xmas. In 1982.

    The actress playing the ‘mother’ is clearly Irish, but her onstage accent strayed from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norwich and up to Liverpool in one of the most cringe-worthy performances I’ve ever had to pay to witness. It’s not implausible that her character could have been, in fact, Irish. So, rather than let her verbally gurn her way through the piece, and ruin the whole damn thing, why not let her just bloody speak in her Irish accent? It was so bad, it seemed to drain everyone else and tar them all with a shit-brush.

    The ‘boy’, began by sounding like a Cornish Frank Spencer but did get marginally better. The rest of the acting was outrageous characature, as if the actors had read the script, thought ‘this is a bit rubbish’ and gone a bit mental adding as much personality to it as they could.

    The singer who kept appearing at every emotional moment and breaking into weirdy Irish ballads about Ploughboys was one of the strangest theatrical devices I’ve ever seen. A device that would have worked much better had he been shot during an early war scene.

    All in all, awful. Terrible. Diabolical. Apart from the puppets, they even had moving ears.


  28. […] before, I was advised that if it should have another staging that I make a point in booking it. I have also been warned about it but if it fails to capture my imagination, and as I am catching a matinee performance, all is not […]

  29. Mark from Adelaide Says:

    Saw it tonight. It was truly awful.


  30. This was one of the most memorable plays I have ever seen. Fantastic!

  31. meeee Says:

    hahahahahaha you whingers are so correct on this.
    my grandma just bought 7 tickets for my family at £50 each and im afraid she was simply robbed.
    yes the puppetry was good but that was it
    the country bumkin was a moron whos accent simply made me and my brother laugh out loud, while my mother thought he had some sort of issue.
    the comic parts were also pathetic, im sure people were only laughing because they were so bored anything was amusing.. everyones faces as we left the theatre just looked drained!
    if you like puppetry go see the lion king on stage much more interesting.. nice story, amazing music and worth the £50!!

  32. ashley Says:

    agreed.

  33. Sarah Says:

    Went to see War Horse last night – not a preview, and I paid full price.

    Oh dear. I so wish I’d found this website before I went.

    War Horse is for the kind of adolescent who goes gooey over horses. I know this ought to be obvious but I was expecting some sort of intelligent deconstruction of WWI. Saying “the puppets were good” is like saying “the costumes were lovely” at somebody’s crap school play.

    The audience gave it away: posh – the descendents of the officer-class that sent millions of working-class tommies to their deaths. They’ve always cared more about animals than people (which is why we got the RSPCA 60 years before the NSPCC). The characters were cardboard cut-outs, no emotional depth and very little development. And there was so much unnecessary shouting. Ever heard of projection, guys?

    Journey’s End it is not. It’s not even the Accrington Pals.

  34. Angie Says:

    @Sarah Erm, I think you’ll find quite a lot of the officers died too. Sending working class Tommies to their deaths, what a load of bollocks! There was a sodding war on, it wasn’t a way for the Daily Mail to quietly wipe out an entire swathe of council estate yobs.

    I loved War Horse at the National, but my mum saw the West End transfer for her birthday and said she couldn’t get past the absolutely chronic accent on Albert.


  35. […] flyer in the mail from the National announcing £25 off of “two top price tickets” for War Horse, good through October 24th. Per the voucher, go to warhorselondon.com/25 (which redirects you to […]

  36. Conor Says:

    One of the worst pieces of ‘theatre’ that i have ever seen. The storyline was rather pathetic for an adult auidience and at times i actually thought the actors had forgotten their lines as it seemed to plod along sooo slowly! And what was with all the French and German being spoken! A little no problem, but 5 to 10 minutes a time to a mainly English speaking auidience?! What?! The acting was also terrible, i do not recommend this and i also cant understand how it has recieved so many rave reviews and credit.

  37. mandy Says:

    read the reviews, friends had seen it,and spoken highly of war horse, so myself and family were really looking forward to this. Oh dear, it just goes to show you CAN fool most of the people most of the time, its terrible, tedious, sentimental, slow,badly written and directed, with shocking acting to boot, like watching paint dry, 3hours of my life i’ll never get back.shouldnt be subsidising such twaddle.


  38. […] By webcowgirl It’s been almost a year since the National last had an offer on tickets to the much loved and highly successful War Horse. I still want to see it but I still haven’t, as I’m put […]

  39. Laurence Says:

    Went to see Sore Horse last night. It’s about a horse upset by the simple minded point of view it has been credited with in a West End show. The play within the play (War Horse) features family favourites like Simple Jack from Tropic Thunder, Compo from Last of the Summer Wine, and inbred illiterate female number seven, as a family divided struggling to come to terms with everything from WWI, to crazed Devonites with birds on sticks, and canned dialogue so generic you could pick it up at Budgens. When the family horse, Joey, heads off to war to escape these reprobates Simple Jack sets out in pursuit. Joey braves the battlefields of France in a bid for more fulfilling associations. Settling on a farm in the French countryside he is adopted by a broken German Officer who has turned his back on war in favour of forming a makeshift family with a French Widow and her Daughter. So far so good, but Simple Jack is nothing if not persistent as psoriasis, and is determined to break up the Utopia that Joey has forged for himself. This all culminates in a truly tragic climax in which Joey is dragged back to Devon to see out his years being ridden relentlessly by Simple jack. While all this plays out the Sore Horse of the title sits in the audience reflecting on the misrepresentation of the equine community in the media. He leaves the theatre disgruntled and disheartened but equally inspired to make a case for change. After shaving his body hair and mastering sign language Sore Horse leaves for America where he breezes through the Harvard entrance exams and gains a degree in Political Science. Shifting focus to Journalism he works for a decade at the Chicago Post writing Political satire and film reviews. Years later he manages to secure funding to develop his own Horse POV West End show, and returns to England in triumphant mood, ready to wrong the rights of the past and set in motion a movement that will see Horse and Man eating from the same table. In a heart wrenching climax Sore’s dreams are reduced to manure when he is outted as a f-ing horse. As details of his shaving/signing antics hit the media he sets the equine rights movement back half a century and ultimately throws himself off the top of Canary Wharf. I was in tears… and the puppetry was amazing.

  40. Stevie Says:

    The New London Theatre is a naf 70’s build that takes you into the provinces, so there’s that problem to overcome. I couldn’t stand the place last time ventured in, decades ago to see another disappointment – Cats. The puppets create a panto’ atmosphere and the various birds didn’t quite convince, along with the senior ranking German soldier. The horses are this production’s only asset, ..well the lead lad is ok. The offer of a £15 side-circle seat should have been grabbed since it was little further from the stage than the £49.50p stalls. Perhaps that’s the avid theatregoers’ secret; buy the cheapest seat in the house then go back for a good seat if you like it, at least you wont feel ripped off. Unbelievable that this show is still running after three years, proving you can fool all of the people all of the time. The knowledge of Spielberg’s film in production may well have boosted audiences. The most unprofessional production I have ever seen in the West End; straggly, needs to be much slicker. Yet another show with screen projections to tell us what’s going on; do we really need to know the date of each scene? HERE, I’LL SPELL IT OUT TO YOU DIRECTORS: VDU’s and info’ screens in a period piece destroy all semblance of authenticity. What’s wrong with dialogue, props, sound, backdrops and lighting (green for grass!) to portray Salisbury plane, or that the war is nearing its end? Pathetic; who stared this craze? Why not just wait ‘till the film is out, you can then screen that instead with the cast sitting on stage munching biscuits and watching us watching the film of what they (stage actors) should be doing! Surprising lack of youngsters in the audience, but it did attract a good balance of men in a West End audience profile normally dominated by women over forty. Large foyers and quick service but a very short interval. The worst curtain call routine ever seen, tissues only required for the super-sensitive.

  41. ews147 Says:

    Unfortunately,I had already bought the tickets before I found this site. I had hoped some of the criticisms were unfounded and posted by ‘picky’ people who just like to moan baout everything. Sadly, this was not the case.Yes, of course the puppets(the horses, at any rate) were great, but this was hardly enough basis for some of the rave reviews this play has received. The characters were awful, with no depth to any of them whatsoever – al’believable’. I appreciate this play is based on a children’s book, but given it is adults buying the tickets and actually watching the play, i would have expected a far better adaptation. I find it very difficult to believe people actually cried at all whilst watching this, let alone ‘through the whole of the second half’. Such people are in dire need of therapy, in my opinion.The ‘birds’, including the goose, were ridiculous and i have to say,I seen far better productions by my local amateur theatre group at the Midlands Art Centre, costing me only a tenner.

  42. ews147 Says:

    Not a patch on Blood Brothers

  43. :) Says:

    I haven’t seen war horse but have been researching it to use in my dissertstion. I find it highly amussing that people seem to be unable to have their own opinion it would simply be boring if we all agreed. As great as the puppets are my question would be does that mean that the artistic values aren’t as important?

  44. Jean Franks (JustMyOpinion) Says:

    JustMyOpinion:
    Having just seen War Horse and thought it superb, I ventured upon this site out of sheer curiosity. I have come to the conclusion it is purely for whingers who really, judging by many of the inane comments, should not go to the theatre at all. Stay behind, dullards, and watch TV for it seems that you have no theatrical imagination whatsoever. I am just wondering what sort of people are you to criticise direction! Are you theatre directors? I bet not. The staging of War Horse is unbelievably excellent. It has a totally magical quality which could only be achieved by the absorbing story, the quality of the cast and the direction. Yes – the book was written for children – of all ages! You have missed to much you complainers and I feel totally sorry for you all.

  45. Shocons Says:

    I saw Warhorse in London in October 2010 and was bored to tears. The puppets were wonderful but they alone couldn’t keep me entranced for 2 1/2 hours. The dialogue sounded as though written by a 12 year old in a play for his class to perform, and its delivery was worse–endless shouting. Worst of all was the pace–by interval nothing much had happened. Perhaps if it had been shortened to an hour and a half I might have lasted the distance. As it was, I left at interval.


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