14 January to 14 February 2015
Reviewed by Linda Curtain
When chosen to review the final venue of the UK and Ireland 2013-15 tour of War Horse at the Bristol Hippodrome, I was delighted but never expected to actually meet Michael Morpurgo himself!
The Bristol Hippodrome is situated in central Bristol near the wonderful harbour side. There are several car parks within the vicinity – some of which offer special evening rates – so parking is not a problem when visiting the venue.
Having opened in 1912, the Hippodrome is a theatre with much character. Arriving in the foyer, I was very impressed with the red and gold decor. It was lovely to be in a theatre with so much ‘Olde World’ charm. The front of house staff were found to be very helpful and welcoming and directed me into the auditorium when I had collected my ticket and programme. Once settled into my seat I was able to admire the venue which with three floors and six very elaborate side ‘boxes’ was very impressive.
War Horse, written by Michael Morpurgo, is a classic, well-known story having previously been a successful film and book, so I was interested to see how this would transfer to the stage. I certainly was not disappointed! From the opening music, War Horse proved to be a spectacular and very moving stage play. The story of Joey, the War Horse who was sold to the British Calvary by the father of his young owner Albert (played by Lee Armstrong) was magnificently portrayed with the support of dramatic music, haunting songs and simple but effective scenery. The use of projected images on the backdrop was brilliant- especially when during battle, the blood splatters changed to the iconic poppies so associated with the war.
The life-sized puppets, created by the Handspring Puppet company, were incredible and so realistic you thought they were actually breathing. To see these creations whinnying, cantering, galloping and even shivering was unbelievable. You soon forgot they were not real, a testament to the highly skilled puppeteers who manoeuvred each horse. There were three people controlling each one and their skill and expertise brought the animals to life. Not only horses but also a very cheeky, realistic goose who added a comedy element!
Various scenes where Joey is caught up in enemy fire and finally ends up ensnared on barbed wire in No Man’s Land, were very dramatic and the emotional journey of Albert to find his beloved animal and their eventual reunion brought a tear to many eyes!
The cast delivered the story with passion and each actor had an important role in the story. This play certainly puts a different perspective to the drama and tragedy of World War One, with the attention being directed to the amount of horses that lost their lives along with the terrible human losses.
A very thought provoking and dramatic play that had the audience, led by Mr Morpurgo himself, on their feet at the end in awe of what they had just witnessed on stage.
I would certainly recommend anyone who hasn’t yet seen War Horse to go along to the Bristol Hippodrome before it closes on 14th February 2015, to see this magnificent stage play in a theatre which is seeped with historical interest and features.
A well -deserved 5 star rating.
Tickets cost from £16.90 to £58.90 (plus £4 transaction fee).
War Horse is at the Bristol Hippodrome until 14 February 2015. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 3012.
Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ | 0844 871 3012