In addition to fantastic puppetry and tight choreography, you can expect a few damp-eye moments in the National Theatre of Great Britain's production of War Horse. Based on Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel of the same name, the boy-meets-horse tale was adapted for the stage by British playwright Nick Stafford and directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris way back in 2007.
Opening shortly before the start of the First World War, War Horse is the love story of a Devonshire lad, Albert (Cody Fern), and a young foal, Joey, who, once it's come of age, is sold into service for the British Army. Seeing the injustice in this, our boy hero fights against age restrictions and cartwheels to Calais to save Joey, at which point his youthful bravado is tear-gassed into the harsh reality of early modern warfare. The play proved to be such a tremendous success that it relocated to the West End and Broadway.
War Horse owes its longevity to South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company, which has created a stable of horses, some soon-to-die cavalry, crows, swallows and a very animated goose. Though surrounded by puppeteers and, in parts, constructed out of obviously mechanical pieces, these puppets realistically breath and quickly pop out as the most genuine players in the show.
War Horse has marked thousands of audiences by now, and it is certainly worth watching as a celebration of theatre craftsmanship. The production's last Auckland attempt in 2013 was cancelled due to "high costs, a competitive market, sluggish ticket sales and even a long summer." The almost-three-hour saga is coming back this June and July, playing at The Civic for an extended season.