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Massive Bodies in Mortal Performance

War Horse and the Staging of Anglo-American Equine Experience in Combat
  • Kim Marra
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Abstract

In an ongoing London run, a Tony-winning run at New York’s Lincoln Center, and tours of North America, Australia, Ireland, the UK, Berlin, and, China, the hit play War Horse (2007) powerfully conjures equine bodies in the First World War to highlight the unprecedented slaughter and devastation and critique the ineffectuality of military action. The play was adapted for the National Theatre of Great Britain by Nick Stafford from a children’s book by Michael Morpurgo told, à la Black Beauty, through the eyes of a war horse called Joey. Morpurgo wrote the story in tribute to the eight million equines who were killed, more than one million from England alone, as traditional cavalry formations came up against the modern technologies that would render them obsolete. When the army takes Joey for service, Albert Narracott, the Devon farm boy who raised him, vows to find him. In a Brechtian epic style, using life-sized horse puppets created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, the play dramatizes Joey’s and Albert’s interwoven journeys across the combat zone. Its storytelling engages audiences on both sides of the Atlantic as the centenary of the First World War and the sesquicentenary of the Civil War, the costliest American conflict in human and equine blood, proceed.1 In so doing, the play evokes not only an explicit history of horses in war but also an unacknowledged parallel history of horses on stage dramatizing war.

Keywords

National Theatre Live Horse Physical Language Black Beauty Cast Member 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Kim Marra 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Marra
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IowaUSA

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