The incredible award winning tale of War Horse, currently storming the boards in London and New York, is not only an amazing tale of a young horse called Joey and his experiences in World War I, it is also an unbelievable feat of puppetry.
War Horse was originally a best-selling children’s book written by Michael Morpurgo, which was then adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford.
Joey is a huge life size puppet horse made of canes and mesh and intricate wiring that comes to life thanks to the great skill of those who operate him. He is controlled by 3 puppeteers; 2 inside his body, operating his legs, tail and frame, and another operating his head, mouth and ears. Their painstaking attention to the physical, emotional and behavioural reactions means that the effect created has sent every audience jaws falling to the floor. Seeing War Horse move and breathe and hear him snort and neigh you can’t help but feel impressed.
At a recent TED conference in California, the puppetry company: Handspring Puppet Company, behind War Horse made a fascinating presentation of the details behind their creation and gave a demonstration not only of Joey himself in all his glory, but also demonstrated his ancestor: a hyena.
TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) is a world circling series of conferences which have been running since 1984. They regularly stream these presentations live online for free, on a wide range of topics which focus on the progression and celebration of science and culture. The inclusion of War Horse’s puppetry team in its line-up is a fine testament to the hit show.
Presenters Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones are clearly and justifiably proud of what they have produced and of their puppeteers who have to not only create the horse’s intricate movements but also produce very convincing sound effects at the same time.
War Horse is one of the hottest theatre tickets London has to offer. It has been breaking records at the box office for its show at West End’s New London Theatre and has won awards including an Olivier Award and a London’s Critics’ Circle Theatre Award. Perhaps even more impressive than that though is the fact that HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip made their first private theatre visit in 4 years to see War Horse.