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  • Writer's pictureFrances

War Horse Review | The Lowry | Manchester

Highlighting the tragedy of war from both sides of the isle, War Horse utilises empty structures and a black stage to bring new depth to The Lowry Theatre.

Set in Devon, the story of Joey is a coming of age narrative that intertwines war, friendship and family rivalry. Following the independent foal from his beginning, we witness Joey being auctioned, forming a bond with farmhand Albert and enlistment during World War I.

Watch the ultimate test in method acting as six unknown performers take on the role of Joey and army horse Topthorn, only to be completely erased by your mind during the second act. This elegantly directed production is a sentimental play that doesn’t fall into the sickly sweet. Instead, Joey’s fantastical narrative helps to elevate the isolation and horrors connected to war.

The performances are far from awkward and distracting, as the actors bring empty frames to life in a rather remarkable transformation. Aided by live folksy music and a projector screen above their heads, the subtle direction broadens a black background into a farm, trenches, and No man's land. Allowing its performers to shine and its story to take hold of the audience, this adaption melds the Handspring Puppet Company and simple storytelling to form a perfect amalgamation.

The puppeteers fight sequences were more distressing to witness that much of the modern blood and guts warfare we have come to recognise on the screen. Offering quieter scenes of the underprepared, with venerable characters and authentic elements of battle.

Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, the tenth-anniversary tour has brought War Horse back to The Lowry. Following eight years in the West End and a 2012 film directed by Steven Spielberg, this is a story that is captivating in any medium.

War Horse offers a sense of trauma attached to the war that does not play into familiar territory. The National Theatre presents a refreshing take that reflects loss, love and life down to its barebones.

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