The Washington Post

‘War Horse’ gives puppeteers free rein

A look at the puppet — and puppeteers — behind Joey, the star of “War Horse.”

He looks as if he emerged from the laboratory of a veterinary Dr. Frankenstein. With haunches that appear to have been stripped from the guts of an amusement park ride, and a thatched torso resembling an unfinished beer barrel, Joey the War Horse doesn’t strike one immediately as astoundingly equine.

And then suddenly, he does. The legs, the head, the tail cease seeming to be a collection of spare parts. Working in magical concert, they complete, assuredly and uncannily, the bearing of a majestic animal, one you come to believe is capable of expressing the emotion that many in an audience attending “War Horse,” in fact, might also feel for him: something akin to love.

How is this possible? How does Joey cross the invisible barrier from dormant swatches and screws, to vibrant flesh and blood? At its most persuasive, puppetry can be the next best thing to living, and as practiced by the teams of puppeteers responsible for the creation and movement of the steeds of “War Horse,” it is indeed a transformative art. In our graphic, read about how the masters at work on “War Horse,” in performance starting Tuesday at the Kennedy Center, corral imagination.

More on “War Horse”:

How Joey the horse gallops

Puppeteering, straight from the horse’s mouth

Video: “War Horse” at the Kennedy Center

Peter Marks joined the Washington Post as its chief theater critic in 2002. Prior to that he worked for nine years at the New York Times, on the culture, metropolitan and national desks, and spent about four years as its off-Broadway drama critic.
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