02 January 2013

War Horse review preview

War Horse
National Theatre of Great Britain and Global Creatures in association with Arts Centre Melbourne
31 December 2012
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 3 March, then touring Sydney, Brisbane, New Zealand

Joey the horse is clearly three people in a horse suit and his story is emotionally manipulative, a bit schmaltzy and narratively safe, but I wasn't the only person crying for that horse on New Year's Eve. If the passionate standing ovation from opening night is a hint of the love for this show, gallop to get your tickets for War Horse.

I read horse books as a pre-teen. I loved a ponymance tale of a lass and her beast with a tail. As I got older, I liked the ones where there pony was dumped for a sullen boy and cried my eyes out in K M Peyton's Flambards series. 

If I'd read War Horse at the time, there would have been more tears. British author Michael Morpurgo is best known for his stories for children and he's written over 120 books. His War Horse (1982) has always been popular, but the stage production by the National Theatre of Great Britain (2007–)  and Steven Speilberg's film (2011) have assured that it's now sold over a million copies.


War Horse is stunning. The story isn't as tight as some may want, but it's a story written so everyone can enjoy it, and enjoy its heartbreak without being traumatised and still want to re-visit it by reading the book and calling the next pet in your home Joey.

There's also a series of War Horse creative workshops at the Arts Centre including Writing for the Stage and Creating Puppets. Details here.

And here's writer  Michael Morpurgo's top writing tips, from The Guardian on 8/12/12.
  1. Live an interesting life. Meet people. Read a lot and widely, learn from the great writers.
  2. Write just a little every day.
  3. Settle on an idea that you care about, that you're really passionate about, then research around it and dream it out in your mind. I don't plan out the plot, rather let it emerge as I write.
  4. When I write I try as far as possible to forget I'm writing it at all. I tell it down onto the page, as if I'm telling it to one person only, my best friend
  5. Remember to write for yourself, not for a market and give yourself time to develop your own style, your own voice. It takes a lifetime. Enjoy it!

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