"War Horse": the spectacle phenomenon arrives at the Seine Musicale

Based on the British book Michael Morpurgo, Steven Spielberg shot a movie in 2011 "War Horse", "War Horse" tells the story of friendship between Albert, a teenager, and his horse, Joey. As the First World War breaks out, Joey is sent to the front with the English troops. Albert agrees to try to find him. Created twelve years ago at the National Theater in London, "War Horse" has been seen by more than 8 million people around the world. He moved to 34 performances at the Musical Seine, Boulogne-Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine), from November 29 to December 29 (35 to 109 euros).

"This is not a show about the war, it is above all a story of life, friendship, explains the producer Thierry Suc who makes it come to France. This is my big favorite of the last ten years, it was impossible for me that the French public does not see this show, "he says. The show is in English, surtitled in French. A brake ?

A poetry driven by singing and music

"It's a false problem," says Suc. Today, the public is very fond of series and looks at the screens in V.O., it can follow a show in English. And continue: "It's a gem that must be presented as is. Even a child of 10 or 11 years old who has trouble reading would be able to follow and take the magic and the emotion to his level.

He saw it three times, and each time was "very touched by the story". "I felt the same emotion against Joey, these puppets are unique I think". On stage, they are 34 actors, few sets and beautiful lights, a poetry carried by the song and the music, but the magic really operates thanks to these equidae. You have to see them trot and gallop, pitch up and fight on stage, hear them breathe, neigh, and quickly forget the humans who give them life … Small secrets behind the magic.

To move the horse, the manipulators use handles connected to cables. Brinkhoff-Moegenburg
To move the horse, the manipulators use handles connected to cables. Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

South African puppets. "We immediately said that we wanted real size horses that had to be able to carry a rider, so the structure needed to be light but strong," recalls Toby Sedwick, director of movements present from beginning of the adventure. From 2005 to 2007, he worked at the National Theater in close contact with the Handspring Puppet, in Cape Town, South Africa, a company specializing in puppets. These animals are built by hand, cane, solid and flexible material at a time.

Joysticks, triggers and joints. They are three manipulators. Two inside the trunk carrying it on the shoulders and actuating the legs and tail, and one outside for the head. They direct it using joysticks with triggers connected to cables that, like tendons, operate the ears, the tail or the lower part of the leg. A transparent colored fabric shows the skin, which allows the manipulators to see on stage.

One by all and all for one. They are three heads and three bodies that form one and the same person who shivers, breathes, neighs. The head, the heart and the back make up the team, the trio of actors who work constantly together. On stage, they can not communicate. Equipped with pickups, one is the breath of the horse, a second neigh. Then they must acquire reflexes, have the movements of the animal pegged to the body. "When the head initiates a movement, the others follow, and conversely, they act almost instinctively," continues Toby Sdewick.


In the skin of the horse. It is he who accompanies the formation of the trios. "Two weeks before the beginning of rehearsals with the rest of the troupe, they take possession of the puppet and practice walking, trotting, basic movements." Then they play to be, to "feel" the freedom of the animal. "We let them do it, they have to immerse themselves in equine movements," says Toby, "record the movements in their bodies."

Danger and freedom, proof of realism. Then begin the rehearsals with the rest of the troop. "They are asked, as during the show, to keep their freedom of movement and mood," continues Toby. There are some fairly precise movements, things to do, but the horse must be free, he must have instinctive and unpredictable movements, like an animal ". On stage, no comedian must "never be certain of what he will do, it forces them to stay on their guard. The danger it brings reinforces the illusion that he is alive, "says Toby.

The little extra: breathing and weight. A being who lives breathes and we perceive that of horses, which accelerates according to the activity. But the weight of the beast also has its role. "It takes a lot more time, the hard part is not controlling the puppet, but simulating the weight," Toby continues. When we plant a leg, when the horse turns, we must feel the hundreds of pounds that move, we must perceive the weight. The body that bends and counterbalances the mass, the head that gets in, it is there the animal.

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