Your average theatrical presentation features a whole bunch of moving parts. It's easy to celebrate an amazing actor or a well written script; those parts are the ones often highlighted on posters and previews. But past meaty lines and actors who disappear in to their work is the technical side of theater, all those things that help build the world that the actors inhabit while they're on stage.
All of that said, and no offense to the humans in the production, but the star of War Horse walks on four legs. Or maybe it's six, depending on your point of view. However you want to look at Joey, the horse puppet at the center of the production, the important part is that he's a technical marvel that is amazing to watch in motion.
Just look at the video above to see what we mean.
Controlled by three members of the Handspring Puppet Company, Joey gets real close to defying logic. You know that there are humans controlling him, and although they were appropriately colored outfits those humans aren't exactly hiding from anyone. And yet, watching the three puppeteers move Joey as one, it's easy to forget they're even there.
These folks have the art of being a horse down. Joey moves the exact way you expect a real horse to move. When Joey plays, he looks like a real horse at play. He even sounds like a real horse, thanks to horse noises provided by the puppeteers controlling him.
It's an illusion so solid that when people start treating Joey like a real horse and not a giant machine made of cane and aluminum it seems completely natural. Of course Joey is going to reach down for an invisible treat; why wouldn't he?
This is just a brief look at what Joey is capable of, and we were assured that he has more tricks up his sleeve during the performance.
Humans are great and a great script can be divine, but Joey is damn near magical.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.