Monday, January 20, 2014


The devotion of a boy to his horse, teenaged Albert for his pet Joey, has enjoyed life as a treasured novel by Michael Morpurgo, a stirring film by Steven Spielberg and now a poignantly moving play adapted by Nick Stafford.  Taking place on the eve of England's entry into World War I, it captures the lengths love can take us when we are motivated by our heart.

The Connecticut premiere of "War Horse" will gallop headlong into the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford from Tuesday, January 28 to Sunday, February 2, courtesy of the National Theatre of Great Britain. There are currently six productions worldwide.

Epic in scope and emotion, "War Horse" features life-sized puppets to depict the horses central to the story.  Manipulated by men, they move so realistically that you will imagine them breathing and snorting, cantering and galloping, neighing and charging.  The Handspring Puppet Company of Capetown, South Africa created these magnificent creatures out of bent bamboo covered with a brown gauze and their realism will amaze you.

One of the most  astounding elements of the play is the design of Joey as a colt and later as a lifesize puppet, with a strong frame of bamboo wood, elastic, leather and wire.  Two puppeteers operate the body from the inside and one, at the head, is outside and the result is so realistic you forget it is not a living, breathing animal.  The puppeteers help the overall effect by whinnying and snorting, as the horse hoofs rhythmically gallop and the tail swishes.

The story shifts from the Devon village where Albert acquires his horse Joey to the battlefields of war, after Joey is sold by Albert's harsh and mean-spirited  father to further the war effort and to line his own pockets.  Albert, who is too young to enlist, eventually lies about his age and sets off to the fields of war at great personal risk to bring Joey safely home.

The warm sunlit countryside of Devon is in stark contrast to the war zone.  Along the way, traditional English folk songs create a tableau of change, reflecting the spirit of the villagers and later the soldiers, by the "Song Man" who weaves the words.

For tickets ($29 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and  6 p.m.

Immerse yourself in a magical and inspiring theatrical event that will transport you to another land and another time,

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