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‘War Horse’ is a sweeping, emotional stage play

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Not all of us get to go to London to see one of the most talked about plays. That’s why it’s great when two companies come together to bring it to American audiences, which is what Fathom Events and National Theatre Live did for “War Horse,” which ran in select theaters on Feb. 27.

Whereas the Steven Spielberg adaptation used a real horse, National Theatre’s presentation used puppets from South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company. But you wouldn’t be able to tell it’s a puppet with the way the company handled it. Horse lovers and those who have been around horses enough times will be able to spot all the real emotions a horse emits in the puppets.

Based on the Michael Morpurgo novel, “War Horse” follows the journey of Albert and his horse named Joey. Albert lives in the rural fields of Devon in the United Kingdom. When Joey is sold to the cavalry, Albert enlists in the war and looks far and wide to reconnect with his best friend.

The war scenes are bloodless, but still haunting. Background imagery beautifully illustrates the carnage, while the sound effects are spot on.

The human actors all give brilliant performances, but it’s the ones who are assigned to do the puppet work that deserve the most recognition. Bringing those animals to life took some work, and they put in all their effort to make the emotions as real as possible.

This presentation of “War Horse” ran at Cinemark 14 in Chico, and the theater was almost full of people young and old. By the time the credits rolled, applause could be heard from just about everyone.

Thanks to Fathom Events for providing credentials to this event.

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