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War Horse

I have less than half an hour left on my internet session here, but want quickly to share a story with you about last night. One of the main reasons I’m in London is to see theatre; I’d read reviews of a play called “War Horse,” by the National Theatre, done with puppets. I’m not usually one for puppets, but this sounded good, so I went last night to enjoy truly one of the best evenings of theatre ever. It was spectacular, stunning, moving, extraordinary. Based on a children’s book by Michael Morpurgo, whom I’ve never heard of and will be reading from now on, it’s the story of a horse called Joey, raised on a small English farm and sent off to WW1. A South African troupe produced the puppets – not puppets really, stunning life-sized evocations of horses – and also a goose and various birds. Joey as a colt was moved by puppeteers outside, but the full grown Joey was created by three actors inside the frame. Every movement, each turn of the horse’s head, each nicker and whinney and scream, was done perfectly, with enormous respect for the truth, the intelligence, nobility, dignity of the animal.  

It’s also the story of the young boy who raises the horse, his life with a feckless father, and his search for Joey through the horrors of the war, again, evoked movingly and simply with projections on a scrim and the movements of the actors. There is joy and beauty in the story, and fairness – Joey is captured by the Germans, where he ends up with a German officer who loves him and tries to protect him. In the last, miraculously beautiful scene,  Joey and his much-changed master ride home. 
At the end, the audience applauded wildly. As anyone who has been to the theatre with me knows, I am not one for standing ovations – I hate how audiences at home now stand for any and everything. But last night I was so overwhelmed with this glorious evening of theatre, the actors, story, direction, movement, every single thing about this event was done magnificently, that I wanted to leap to my feet. But I was in England – not a movement anywhere, just polite clapping. Finally, when the whole cast was assembled with the horses, I couldn’t bear it, I stood up, clapping fiercely, completely alone. And as I stood clapping, I felt a sharp pain on the back of my legs. The woman behind me hit me to make me sit down. 
I continued to stand clapping until the end of the curtain call, and then turned to her. “I couldn’t see anything!” said an elderly woman. “It’s not fair!”
“I was honouring the work of these artists,” I replied.
“But I couldn’t see!” she said bitterly.
Well, she’s right, I guess she couldn’t.
Today, the National Gallery, “Waiting for Godot” and dinner with old friend Tony and his wife in Hampstead. All day and from now, I will carry the richness of what I saw last night.  How I love the theatre. Though not, always, its audiences. 



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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