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REVIEW: War Horse

Mirvish’s ‘War Horse’ is pure magic.
By: Ashley Baylen
Published: March 5th, 2012 in Culture » Stage » Reviews
Albert Narracott (Alex Furber) with Joey (Adam Cook)Pic: Brinkhoff / Mögenburg

21st century audiences are very difficult to impress. Computer graphics, animation and special effects see advancements by the minute, and every other movie is released in 3D to make these improvements even more spectacular. The current generation has a short attention span; quick cuts, cheap one-liners, and loud explosions have become the norm… so it was incredible to see an audience ranging in ages 6-90 completely engrossed by a simple, yet beautiful story of a boy and his horse.

War Horse does not rely on special effects, large musical numbers, violent war scenes or vibrant colours to keep its audience engaged. It reminds us why we love going to the theatre; a handful of marvelous actors, beautiful music that is perfectly interwoven with the story, and indescribably stunning customized puppets take us on the emotionally-packed adventure that is both authentic and relatable.

War Horse follows the story of Albert (Alex Furber) and his horse, Joey. When Albert’s father is forced to sell Joey to the army at the beginning of the first World War, Albert dedicates his life to tracking down his beloved best friend. We watch Joey overcome and inspire others during various war time scenarios as soldiers and other horses die around him. Meanwhile, Albert joins the army hoping that he will reunite with Joey, so they can return home together safely.

Although the story is simple, its universal appeal attracts audiences of all ages and walks of life. The beauty of War Horse is that every person who sees it takes something different home with them. Ask a hundred people what War Horse is about and they will all provide a different answer; hardships during World War I, a family that must persevere through difficult economic times, a love story between a boy and his horse, a lesson about loyalty and heroism, and the list goes on an on. This list does have one commonality though; War Horse is inspiring and chalk-full of important life lessons and values.

Joey and all other animal roles are represented by puppets created by South-African based Handspring Theatre Company. The artistry of these customized pieces is truly amazing- effectively creating a vehicle for the actors manipulating the puppets to convey realistic movement and subtle facial gestures.

Another interesting element to the stage production was the use of projections shaped like a torn page from a sketch book in the background. Like everything in War Horse, its simplicity was brilliant.

Overall, Mirvish’s production of War Horse far surpasses Spielberg’s recent film adaptation. The combination of brilliant acting from the entire ensemble, immaculate grassroots-style artistry, haunting folk music primarily sung by Juno-award winning Melanie Doane, and an age-old love story make War Horse an experience that cannot be missed.

For tickets, visit www.mirvish.com

Related articles: Review, War Horse, Mirvish, Steven Spielberg, Academy Awards, Melanie Doane, Juno, Toronto
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Robert Lepage brings his 2008 play to Toronto.

2 Pianos 4 Hands Review

Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt to Toronto with 2P4H

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