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War Horse at Lincoln Center: A Tragic and Triumphant Trot Through Time

by Rich and Laura Lynch

War Horse is the 5-time Tony Award winning masterpiece claiming accolades for Best Play and Best Scenic Design. The show at Lincoln Center is a Nick Stafford adaptation based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo and is a co-production with the National Theatre of Great Britain in association with Handspring Puppet Company. Soundpress.net attended an evening performance on April 25, 2012 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater located at 150 W 65th Street.

WAR HORSE at Lincoln Center

War Horse is the story of a special horse named Joey. Joey's tale takes place during World War I. He is taken from the calm of the English countryside and his travels lead him through battle worn France and Germany. His amazing journey is intertwined with people living through this dark period in human history.

War Horse is a drama propelled by passionate music and stories. Yet, even more impressive is how the animals and a tale of this scale are adapted to the stage. The use of innovative life-size puppets are central to the plot and unfolding presentation that is packed with horse power.

The Beaumont Theater was stark with dark walls. The comfortable seats were placed in a half moon around the stage and the room is clearly built for sound. The set designs were simple yet effective in conveying time and place. The story starts on a farm owned by a family struggling to make ends meet. Sixteen year old Albert Narracott is the colt's passionate owner. They first connect during a comical feeding scene. This was the first of many moments that one comes to appreciate the puppets. The young Joey breaths, eats and snorts with truly lifelike mannerisms.

As an adult Joey is sold to an English officer and Albert is heartbroken. Narracott later sneaks off to join the military in an effort to find his horse. The universal suffering of war is seen through the eyes of Joey who is saddled with the burden of alternatively supporting both sides of the conflict. Joey befriends a black horse named Topthorn and the two share many trials including pulling a heavy cannon to the sound of stirring music. The effect of their labors was apparent as their breath heaved and muscles strained.

The artistry of the animals was simply amazing. The adult horses are handled by three people. Two pairs of human legs blend in with the color of the horse as a third person guides the animal. In a testimony to the actors, the puppeteers and the tragic and compelling stories they are telling we found that - as the play proceeded - we no longer saw the handlers but just the horses.

The attention to detail was also impressive. Subtle sounds along with fully orchestrated pieces added to the intensity on stage. A man and woman sang and additional instrumentation was used to enhance the tales and times. A stage-wide screen that looked like a torn piece of cloth was utilized for images and animation.

The play continued at an ambitious pace through epic battles and individual struggles until the armistice arrives. Although there was no real blood or mud, the misery of the trenches was apparent through the dialogue and straightforward set design. Much of the play portrays the horrors of war but there was also humor and most importantly - the hope that good can ultimately prevail.

Sadly, eight million horses died during World War I with only 62,000 returning to their native England. War Horse captures some of their stories. Overall, the enthralling production was imaginative and innovative telling tragic and triumphant tales through music, people and puppets. War Horse at the Lincoln Center was an epic equestrian quest that revealed insight into human nature and the brave nature of these magnificent animals.

Related Links: For more information on WAR HORSE and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - War Horse | Lincon Center




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