War Horse at The Lowry Theatre



After receiving some money from Chris’s uncle for Christmas I thought it would be a good idea to put it towards doing something together as a family.

I’ve always loved shows so this is usually my default suggestion. We narrowed the choice down and finally decided on War Horse. It was also Father’s Day so that was a bonus.

Over the last couple of years we’ve been on holiday to the Somme region of France and visited places like the Thiepval Memorial and begun to have more of an understanding of the 1st World War and the huge loss of life. Approximately 10 million fighting men lost their lives not to mention the same number of civilian lives lost. Of the horses in World War 1 thousands were left lame by nails and blades on the battlefield. Between the Somme in July 1916 and the Armistice in November 1918 the British Army recorded 58,090 horses killed, 77,410 wounded by gunfire, 2431 were poisoned by gas which resulted in the death of 211 horses and several hundred were killed by aeroplane bombs.

The story behind the writing of War Horse is a fascinating one told by Michael Morpurgo in the programme that we bought.  He tells about all the different elements that make up the book’s creation as it were. The final piece is when he tells us about a boy named Billy who visited his Farms for Children charity in Devon. As Michael approached his stables he could hear Billy talking to one of the horses. Michael watched and felt that the horse was listening and understanding and it was that inspirational moment that gave him the confidence to begin writing War Horse.

I really felt that the handspring puppet horses on the stage truly captured how a horse responds. It doesn’t take long for the brain to forget that there are people under the full-sized horse Joey. I was memorised by it, especially the horses twitching ears and the eyes.

Seven million people have seen the play in theatres all round the world and it has been the most succesful National Theatre production. I saw it when it toured in 2014 again at the Lowry. Luckily for me I soon forget details about films, plays, musicals etc so I can watch them over and over and enjoy them just as much. I certainly hadn’t remembered the many gun shots that we had on Sunday. At one point Chris nearly tipped his beer in my lap from one of the gunshot scenes and a child was reduced to tears. I assume that the leg falling off the young Joey was accidental but it made the audience laugh.

We all really enjoyed it and in the 100th year since the end of World War 1 it certainly makes you think. Wilfred Owen wrote – “War Horse is not simply a show or a play about a war, a horse and a boy. It is an anthem for peace, and reflects I think, a universal longing of a world without war.”