The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ROBERT TANITCH is deeply moved by a boy's quest to save his old friend.
THE National Theatre never condescends to children. Under artistic director Nicholas Hytner, they have offered adult and controversial subjects, such as Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials and Jamila Gavin's The Coram Boy.
This year, they are staging an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's classic novel about the horrors that the horses suffered during World War I.
Morpurgo tells the story of Joey, who is sold to the army as a cavalry horse and shipped to the front line in France. When he goes missing, the 15-year-old lad who used to own him joins up to find him.
What chance does a horse have against machine guns and tanks? One million horses were taken to the front. Only 62,000 came back.
When Joey is lost in no-man's-land and trapped in barbed wire, he is rescued by the combined efforts of British and German soldiers. It's a scene to recall the famous occasion when British and German soldiers fraternised and celebrated Christmas together.
In Peter Shaffer's Equus, the horses were played by actors with skeletal masks standing on platform hoofs. In The Lion King, the animals and birds are played by humans and full-sized rod and shadow-puppets.
At the turn of the century, when the Coliseum staged the chariot race in Ben-Hur, they actually used real horses on a treadmill.
At the National Theatre, they use puppets, but puppets like you've never seen before. These amazing life-size and life-like horses are the superb creation of the South African Handspring Company. There are three puppeteers, all visible in the Japanese Bunruki manner - one to manipulate the head, the other two inside the body.Â Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris's production, which looks great on the vast open spaces of the Olivier's revolving stage, is excellent.Â
The acting by Luke Treadwell as the young lad and by Angus Wright as a good German is first rate.
Joey is a wonderful creation for children to put alongside Black Beauty, National Velvet and Boxer in Animal Farm. War Horse is the best theatrical treat around, not only for youngsters but for adults as well.
The combination of Paule Constable's atmospheric lighting, Rae Smith's drawings, the video and photographic images and John Tams's music all make the performance an unforgettable and deeply moving experience. Don't miss it on any account.
Plays until February 17. Box office: (020) 7452-3000.