On St. Patrick’s Day, Sluggo and I went to see War Horse at Lincoln Center, just because it was puppets and it was so incredibly expensive that it seemed like the sort of thing we should do for our 20th wedding anniversary. We knew pretty much nothing about it, so it was a happy surprise when we found out it features South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company.
We’d seen their puppets in exhibits in 2006 at the World Financial Center and last year at the Katonah Art Museum, and we’ve always wanted to see them in action. They did not disappoint. The life-sized horse puppets were fantastic: not realistic, yet completely convincing. The puppetry was truly astonishing, not only capturing the lifelike movements of the horses at different ages, but actually imbuing each one with a distinct personality. The staging was great, the lighting was great, the music was great, the animation was great. The acting was a little shouty; I sort of expect that when I go to the thee-uh-tuh but, as Sluggo pointed out, everything’s mic’d, so why? But: The other thing we didn’t know until we got there was that the story is taken from a children’s book. The book is told from the point of view of the horse, but apparently no one could figure out how to do that onstage, so the show is just a straight narrative—linear and obvious. I can’t imagine who the audience is supposed to be: The battle scenes are probably too intense for little kids, but I think most adults are already aware that War Is Bad. So if you are dotty about puppets, you will want to see War Horse, and if you’re not, you won’t.
If you are really, truly dotty about puppets, you’ll want to join me this Wednesday at 6:30 at the New School to hear Basil Jones and Brian Kohler, Handspring Company’s founders, discuss a bunch of academicized stuff about puppetry with Dan Hurlin and Yvette Christianse. At least it’s free.
Grass Mud Horse is a Chinese dissident thing on the Interwebs. Apple won’t let you play Unpleasant Horse on your iPhone. And the poster for War Horse reminds me of the poster for the movie Zoo.
Thanks for reading my blog post this time, and may God bless.