Tonight a rare trip into the West End with Eleanor to see the transfer of War Horse at the New London Theatre. It's amazing that this show has been going for four years now. I first saw it in its initial Olivier run back in 2007 and was keen to see whether with a new cast and a successful Broadway transfer behind it, the wide eyed magic that marked those first performances still remained. It's easy for long runs to turn stale as actors and technical crew struggle to find the motivation to keep the work fresh and optimistic.
For the most part War Horse is still the show it was. John Tams beautiful folk ballads still haunt the work leading the expectant audience into the story and of course the dexterity of Handspring's exquisite puppets still take the breathe away. We watch and marvel at Joey's every move from wilful foal, to reluctant work horse, to captain's charge, journeying from Devonian village to the battlefields of France and back again.
This time round I was struck by how ambiguous the ending is with Albert riding his beloved mount wearily home. It's neither triumphant nor for all the earlier action sentimental, just the end of the war and a new chapter. Unusual in many ways for a children's story. No resolution or symbolic return. Just the reality of a devastated community.
The only downside to the commercial transfer is that the not so cheap, cheap seats at the New London really do restrict your opportunity to sense of the majestic Devonian landscape and the wonderful moment when Albert first rides Joey fast and loose across the Moor is lost to all but those who've paid top dollar.