It had been ages since I’d been to a theatre spectacle, which is a shame because I live in New York and could see a chandelier plummet to the ground in Phantom of the Opera every single night if I wanted. Last Saturday, that changed as I went to see War Horse, the story of a horse named Joey who is taken from a farm in England for World War I, at Lincoln Center Theatre. The show was still in previews when I saw it, so it might change slightly when it opens officially.
The story of horses in World War I is tragic. It’s estimated over 8 million died during the war, as tanks rolled in and barbed war they couldn’t see was stretched out, and the cavalry battles were replaced by machine gun carnage and poison gases.
I thought it was incredible. What made it so amazing, despite some awkward dialogue and over-the-top acting (I think “JOEY” was screamed about a million times), were the puppets. When I saw videos of them before the performance, they actually looked a little scary:
However, it’s the movements, not the appearance of the puppets, that make you forget they don’t look exactly like horses. They didn’t even try to hide the puppeteers, yet the movement was so natural that I kept thinking I was watching real animals. The whole play is from the perspective of Joey the horse, and it opens with Joey as a stumbling foal who is corralled to be sold. The most emotional part of the play for me was when he is being trained on his new farm home to rear up on his hind legs. All of the sudden, a huge, fully grown horse rears up behind him and runs onto the stage. It was amazing!
The play does have a happy ending, although with a lot of casualties along the way (I think some of the children had to cover their eyes for most of the second act, considering there were gas masks, barbed wire, machine guns, a tank, and a generous use of gunshots.) I definitely recommend it if you are in NYC. It’s been playing in London since 2007, and apparently Steven Spielberg is directing a film version that comes out this year. But without the puppets, I’m not sure how it would be.
When I came out of the theatre, the Super Moon was gleaming in the night sky over Lincoln Center. You may have seen it yourself, as it was one of the biggest full moons in 20 years.
Back in Brooklyn, I went up to my roof and again saw the bright, low moon.
And looking back towards Manhattan, the lights were still brighter.