Watching this moving story of a horse and his boy is an astonishing experience. The horses are puppets performed by three people who also do the vocalizations, and the coordination that must require is fascinating to watch. There are also other animals also played by human puppeteers – the goose is an especially welcome comic relief. Honestly though, you almost forget you’re not watching real animals, which is the real achievement of the production.
If you saw Spielberg’s excellent War Horse movie, you have a general sense for the story, but the plot in the play is simpler. It centers on an English farm boy named Albert and his beloved half-thoroughbred, half-draft horse Joey, both of whom find themselves serving in different units in the King’s army in World War 1. It follows their adventures and misadventures and highlights the many people they both encounter. Throughout the play, English folk songs are sung in a single voice to tie the various story threads together, which is an eery but effectively moving choice. If you have the chance to see the play, take advantage – you won’t regret it.
Title quote: C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy