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?
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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.