I taught a Humanities class where I spent one lecture discussing the ins and outs of World War I.
We would discuss how old war fighting traditions stood against machine guns and biological warfare. You can talk about the battles and list the numbers of the dead, show the artists and show how the existential movement was born from the horrors of the fighting--but War Horse was the most moving demonstration I have ever seen of the horrors of this war.
Broadway Across America presents The National Theatre of Great Britain's production of War Horse.
First of all, you should see a picture of the horses.
The horses were operated by three puppeteers whose job was to bring to life the animals. With every stir of the head, every breath, every twitch of the tail, you felt and understood the animal's spirit.
Joey and Topthorn are two horses sent into war to charge with the cavalry.
They are sent into the war to charge into machine guns and barbed wire.
Both guns and barbed wire rip into the flesh of these magnificent animals and during the fighting soldiers from both sides of the war risk their lives to save the innocent animals.
The whole play is about people who can't understand one another, learning to hear and speak to one another. From the horse Joey and the boy Albert's first meeting, to Captain Freidrich's efforts to communicate with a young French girl, to an exchange between an English soldier and a German soldier--both determined to save an injured horse.
The whole war was about a clash of perspectives and an inability to see eye to eye. The 19th century fighting styles clashing with the 20th century weapons. The Kaiser and the Kings. Albert writes home that he's still in farm country--and he is. Across the different borders, across languages--the spirit of the land and the kindness of the people extend to both sides of the conflict. But across the land, the inability to communicate leaves the land a growing cemetery.
But where good men try, as they take a moment to listen to breathing, to choose their gestures carefully, and reach out in gentleness, we see hope that despite the differences, the world will heal from this great war.
The play was beautiful. It wasn't a vehicle for actors. It was a vehicle for a story. Each person was a part of a whole. It was moving to see actors work so seamlessly with one another to honor the story that they were telling.
If you have an opportunity, don't miss out on a chance to see this beautiful play.
It runs April 22-27 at The Capitol Theatre. Tickets are expensive, but worth it. This kind of puppetry is something you don't see everyday. (Thank you Handspring Puppet Company.)