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Saturday, 19 May 2018

War Horse | Mayflower Theatre

War Horse has been seen by over seven million people worldwide, completed a record-breaking eight year London run at the New London Theatre in March 2016, and has won 25 awards, including the Tony Award for Best Play on Broadway.  When War Horse first played the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton in February 2014, it unsurprisingly played to packed houses. And when it was announced that the National Theatre production of Michael Morpurgo's novel was returning to my local theatre, I knew I'd have to go. So when the invitation popped up to join the Southampton Bloggers for a night of stunning theatre*, I was over the moon.

Directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, Nick Stafford's adaption of Michael Morpurgo's novel addresses courage, loyalty and friendship, centring on the story of a young boy called Albert and his horse Joey. Set during the First World War, we first meet Albert and Joey in Devonshire countryside, with Albert helping Joey become accustomed to life on the farm. The two develop an incredibly strong bond, which is beautifully portrayed by the actors and the intricate puppetry. However, tragedy strikes when the two are separated, after Albert's father sells his son's beloved pony to the Army. We're then sent on a rollercoaster of emotions as boy and horse are torn apart and Albert's fight to reunite with Joey begins.

Photo courtesy of Mayflower Theatre
I was totally mesmerised by this performance. I don't know if anything I say could ever do the show justice. The story is beautiful, the cast were brilliant and the puppets - wow, those puppets. Never did I imagine that I'd be watching such realistic puppets. You could almost mistake them for living, breathing horses. South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company really did do a fantastic job bringing galloping horses to the stage. Joey and Topthorn, and their actors, were the stars of the show for me. Them and the goose, who brought some much needed light comic relief to an otherwise intensely emotional performance.

Photo courtesy of Mayflower Theatre
The mix of dramatic music and traditional Devonshire songs really added to the atmosphere, as did the backdrop. The theatrical lighting, paired with the gorgeous sketches that appeared above the stage were fully immersive - there was always something to look at. I smiled, I cried, I jumped, I laughed, I gasped.

Photo courtesy of Mayflower Theatre
I don't know if you can tell, but I fell in love with this performance. It was everything I expected it to be and so much more. I don't think you could ever be prepared for the emotions, the beautiful puppetry and acting, and the poignant story. This really is an amazing way to learn the effects of the First World War, on a small village community, while also giving an interesting insight into how the French and Germans may also have reacted to the atrocities of the war. Michael Morpurgo's writing is always phenomenal and bringing it to life on stage is one of the best things that could've happened to the story.

Photo courtesy of Mayflower Theatre
The Mayflower Theatre is about to go dark - the big refurb is upon us. Before our local theatre goes quiet, I'd really recommend seeing if you can grab some tickets for this beautiful performance. War Horse is showing in Southampton until 9th June. You can book tickets online or call the Box Office on 02380 711811.

A huge thank you to the lovely Alice for organising a fab opportunity with the Southampton Bloggers.

L - R: Emily, Bex, me, Jo, Kristy, Ciara, Kat
Love Lexie,

* My ticket to this performance was complimentary in return for a review of the show. All views are honest and my own.

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