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Warhorse is almost perfect: 6 reasons to go. Or stay away.

Saturday, June 14, went off in a flood of evening gowns, dinner jackets, Dutch celebrities and Gooische Tanks War Horse premiered. A play about a war in which the Netherlands was neutral, and of which there are memorial stones in every village in the rest of the world. You can go and see it. Or not. We have listed six arguments.

1: The horse's name is Joey

I myself have a little dog called Rufus. Rufus senses me, teases me, comforts me. If anything ever happened to Rufus, or Rufus and I were ever forced apart, I would spend my whole life trying to find my little doggie again. So put me in a full Theatre Carré at the premiere of War Horse and you'll have me roaring within five minutes. Because Joey, the brown horse playing the lead role, looks suspiciously like Rufus. Couple of sizes bigger, but soit. All around me were a lot of people with the same dog at home. Or goldfish. Or walking branch.

2: The script is perfect

A perfect script pretty much tells you at the beginning how it's going to end. You see a farm boy (innocence), a foal (youth), you see a year (1912). With today's knowledge, you know that in two years very annoying is going to be. But you also know that you are at a family show, so of course they will find each other again at the end, even if things get very tense for a while before that. So everything in your emotional housekeeping is ready to keep you safe. This is not Game of Thrones. You don't get kicked out of your comfort zone halfway through.

3: It's all real

A human needs very little information to create a picture. Give us a horse's head, and we think of a horse. That's the beauty of puppet theatre. That was also the beauty of Rieks Swarte's Yes Sister, No Sister. Tea towels became pigeons. The horse Joey was then developed just a bit further. That has to convey the suggestion of real as well as possible, but meanwhile keep telling that it is a puppet. The players are visible, but must become invisible, while meanwhile also making their presence felt. This is the material that great scientists thick books About writing: how that works. Problem is, though, that it has to be played perfectly. If it is not, you get something like Zeeland Knolls in a merry-go-round. So the Dutch horse players will have to practise a bit more.

4: It's all serious

British theatre is inimitable. British actors can sell the biggest nonsense with the most serious mug shot. They can be serious with a wink that doesn't sacrifice tragedy. They can make shenanigans that hark back to a rich tradition that began with Shakespeare, and share it with their audiences. Dutch actors also have qualities. These often go better with German or French repertoire.

5: It's all understandable.

We don't like dialect on stage. We like intelligibility. Devon means nothing to us, so an actor who gives a Devon character a Zeelandic Flemish dialect is stupid to us. We are very American about that. So everyone in the Dutch version of War Horse speaks highly civilised Musical Dutch, which is derived from the Television Dutch of the 1970s, which in turn was based on the Drama Dutch of the 1950s. Extremely intelligible.

6: Not a bad word about War Horse.

Saying something bad about War Horse is not done. For that, the original British version is too good. For that, it was all too expensive to make, for that, too many BN'ers were flown in to bless the premiere, and for that, the Song Man sings too pouty. The evening began as Black Beauty, evolved into The Little House on the Prairie, made a brief foray into a Disney War movie and ended as Novecento, the Musical. Next year, Joop van den Ende will probably present a remake of the first EO Youth Day from 1975 in collaboration with Oerol.

War Horse is yet to be seen. More info via the Holland Festival

 

 

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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