There are many things that could turn people away from seeing War Horse. A play about a horse? Eh. A play about a horse that uses puppetry? Eek. A play about a horse that uses puppetry that is 145 minutes long? Oh, no.
But I am glad I didn’t let my preconceptions get in the way, and I’m sure the packed house of Tuesday night’s show at the Straz Center was glad to be there as well. The play, based on Michael Morpurgo’s children’s book of the same name, is about a boy, Albert, who loses his childhood horse, Joey, to British troops during WWI, and the great lengths he endures to get him back. The stage adaption, which was first shown at the Royal National Theater of London in 2007, commissioned the South African puppet company Handspring to make Joey and the rest of the horses come to life, and come to life they do. The three people who operate the horses, which are made of metal, wicker, and fabric, quickly disappear as we focus on what is seemingly a real live horse on stage. From the breathing to the fly-swatting tails, no details of the horses’ personalities are left untouched.