Friday, March 7, 2014

The History of WAR HORSE & Why You Need to See It

WAR HORSE is a remarkable story of courage, loyalty, and friendship between a boy and his beloved horse Joey.  The tale began as a children's book of the same name by Michael Morpurgo and eventually became an Academy Award nominated movie by Steven Spielberg.  Relatively few stories have enjoyed the trifecta of entertainment outlets like WAR HORSE has, but neither page nor screen quite captures the remarkable character of Joey like that of the stage.

In the play, produced by London's National Theatre, Joey the War Horse is portrayed by a puppet - not the Jim Henson type, the Handspring Puppet Company type.  Handspring has taken the art of puppetry to a whole new level, and they saved some of their best creative juices to make Joey. 

It takes three puppeteers to bring Joey to life: the Head, the Heart, and the Hind.  Each puppeteer is responsible for what they call "an emotional indicator."  For example, the Head puppeteer operates Joey's entire head, but the emotional indicator is the ears.  When Joey is interested in something, his ears perk forward.  When he's frustrated or angry, he'll pin them back.  These emotional indicators help Joey communicate with the audience without words.

Still, one of the most impressive aspects of Joey is that he breathes.  This has practically become a trademark for Handspring Puppet Company.  They know that the believability of any puppet lies in its breath, and Joey's breathing makes him so real that he will have you eating out of his hoof within the first five minutes.  Or rather, he'll be eating out of your hand (he's a fan of sugar cubes).  Each of the three puppeteers work together to create Joey's breathing.  He snorts, he huffs, he gasps, and he heaves with the power of three men, the same amount of lung capacity that a real horse has.

When all of these elements come together you have a living, breathing, life-sized horse.  Joey perfectly balances artistic creativity with the audience's imagination.  As if that wasn't enough, Joey has a heartwarming story to tell that the whole family will enjoy!

Check out our YouTube playlist for WAR HORSE and see Joey in action.

WAR HORSE plays at The Orpheum Theatre March 25 - 30, 2014.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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