Steven Spielberg has finally announced that he will make a film of the UK play War Horse. Set during the First World War the story tells of a young farm lad searching for his beloved horse Joey through the bloody battlefields of Northern France.

War Horse play image

Joey the Horse and his pals

Spielberg first saw the play in London in March 2009 and then in December Dreamworks Studios announced that they had acquired the rights. It originally started out as a best selling book for young adults in the early eighties.

It’s easy to see why the play would appeal to the great director – it contains many themes that we’ve seen in his films before. The central relationship in the film between the young man and his horse is similar to Elliott and E.T., and in The Empire of the Sun he had a young English hero adrift in the midst of war. Most of all, War Horse has that warm, fuzzy glow that is pure Spielberg.

The play uses large puppets that are manipulated on stage by handlers to create amazingly realistic animals. Playgoers find themselves transported by the expert manipulation of these wicker frames which conjure a stage filled with quivering, snorting, neighing, galloping and rearing horses. Even the Queen made a last minute visit to the theatre to see what all the fuss was about late last year.

Although it should be an amazing production, there is one thing that will be missing. The magic of the puppetry. Although most people’s pulses aren’t set racing by puppets, in War Horse the art is raised to a thing of wonder.

It might be a good idea to go to the theatre to see War Horse before you see the movie.

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