REVIEW: War Horse - Lowry Theatre, Salford

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This is the show that has got theatre critics and audiences worldwide talking – and within minutes of it starting it is easy to see why.

Visually stunning, it connects with audiences in a way a lot of theatre doesn’t.

War Horse has been a phenomenon since it hit the stage in 2007, seen by six million people around the world and winning awards galore.

Now on a UK tour this was the first night of a three-month run at the Lowry, which sold out so quickly they’re bringing it back in the spring.

So given the hype the big question is does the play merit the acclaim? The answer is a resounding yes.

As a piece of theatre it is terrific. The horses – which, as you may deduce from the title, are kind of integral to the show – are superbly recreated here in the form of puppets. The word puppets often fills one with dread, bringing to mind archaic images of Thunderbirds, but the way it is done here is marvellous.

Based on a 1982 book by children’s author Michael Morpurgo, the plays tells the story of Billy and his horse, Joey.

It is an epic tale centred around the Great War and with an ending that requires a large box of tissues (if you don’t shed at least one tear you’re sub-human).

The first act is sensational, theatre at its absolute best, relentlessly superb.

After the interval, there is a very funny scene involving local lad Sean McKenzie (as Sergeant ‘the F-word’ Thunder), but then I felt the pace dropped just a touch for 20 minutes or so, though this is probably necessary because a new plot-line begins.

But what it does do startlingly well in the second act is hammer home the horrors of the war. It is brilliantly performed by every member of the cast, especially Lee Armstrong as Albert and Bob Fox as the song man, who links scenes by performing tunes by folk artist John Tams.

Hugely recommended and a reminder of how horrific the Great War was – and how utterly pointless it is that 100 years on we keep making the same mistakes.