WAR HORSE: Adapted by Nick Stafford.
Royal Concert Hall: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 45m: one interval: till 7th April.
Performance times: 7.30pm, matinees Week 1 – Thurs 2.00pm, Sat 2.30pm; Week 2 – Wed 2.00pm, Sat 2.30pm.
Review: Alan Geary: 14th March 2018.
Continues to live up to its well-deserved reputation.
War Horse, a smash hit all over the world, continues to live up to its reputation. A huge audience at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall seemed to be enthralled throughout.
The play began life as a children’s book, and it shows. This is a highly episodic Black Beauty meets the Great War. What in most contexts would be regarded as occasional over-emphatic acting is appropriate in this play. And the sentiment throughout has that unashamed lack of nuance or complexity one associates with work for children.
Moreover, what with the fact that the German officers are typically more horrid than the initially blimpish British ones, there’s more than a suggestion of all those cracking war comics. It’s a perhaps unavoidable error to have the enemy talking in comic-book English instead of straight German or straight English. No one actually says “Gott in Himmel, Englanders!” but you can tell they’re thinking it
The best bit of fun in the play comes from one of the sergeants (there are many) with his comical line in parade ground discipline.
War Horse is of course best known, and rightly so, for the brilliant construction and operation involved in the horse puppetry. It calls for more than the usual measure of suspension of disbelief from the audience but this is willingly handed over.
The background music, mainly used for the bucolic pre-war scenes, which has that uniquely English quality we associate with Elgar or Vaughan Williams, and the great folksy songs are wonderful. They function in heart-breaking juxtaposition to the highly realistic sound effects of an industrialised warfare which put paid to cavalry charges.
In an unusually huge cast there’s a lot of creditable acting. Among others, Thomas Dennis, in the central human role of Albert, (the protagonist is of course the horse Joey), Peter Becker, as Friedrich Müller, and Jo Castleton (well known to Nottingham’s Thriller Season fans), as Albert’s mother Rose, might be noted.
Get a ticket for this one.
Chapman Carter/Colonel Strauss: Marcus Adolphy.
John Greig/Dr Schweyk/Sergeant Fine: Adam Barlow.
Friedrich Müller: Peter Becker.
Emilie: Joëlle Brabban.
Billy Narracott/Unteroffizier Klebb: Jasper William Cartwright.
Rose Narracott: Jo Castleton.
Thomas Bone/Veterinary Officer Martin: Jonathan Charles.
Albert Narracott: Thomas Dennis.
Song Man: Bob Fox.
Geordie: Max Gallagher.
Sergeant Allan/Brandt/Soldat Manfred: Chris Garner.
Sergeant Thunder: Andrew Hodges.
Arthur Narracott: William Ilkley.
Lieutenant Nicholls: Ben Ingles.
Johann Schnabel: Billy Irving.
Nurse Annie Gilbert: Kiran Landa.
Ted Narracott: Gwilym Lloyd.
Klausen/Priest: Jack Lord.
David Taylor: Toyin Omari-Kinch.
Paulette: Arinder Sadhra.
Matron Callaghan: Elizabeth Stretton.
Captain Stewart/Ludwig: Simon Victor
Directors: Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris.
Designer/Drawings: Rae Smith.
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable.
Sound Designer: Christopher Shutt.
Puppet Design and Fabrication: Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler.
Music: Adrian Sutton.
Songmaker: John Tams.