In which Ruth finally gets to see War Horse

WarHorseI read the book War Horse some years ago, long before it became so famous. That was during me ‘children’s book’ phase. I spent many months thoroughly enjoying some old books of mine and some current bestsellers. Michael Murpurgo became a firm favourite and I’m still picking them up in charity shops. You may not know that I also have an interest in WW1 and so War Horse was an emotional and enjoyable book to read.

Then I saw a programme on TV about the stage play. I saw how the horses were going to be put together and played. It was something I’d never seen in my life before and looked absolutely incredible. I knew then that I wanted to go and see it on stage as soon as I could.

The National Theatre have been playing it in the west end for some time now and I was planning on how to get down to see it, when my baby bought me tickets last Christmas (yes, over a year ago!) for when it came to Edinburgh. Best seats too – second front row of the stalls.

Would it be an exaggeration to say I’ve been excited for a year now? Well, obviously not every waking minute but whenever mention was made of War Horse my heart would go clippety-clop. Friends have been to see it, of course, and have waxed lyrical. “Oh you’ll love it, Ruth!” they cry. And so I have waited and waited and on Friday my time had come.  Then you worry. What if I don’t like it as much as everyone else? What if it doesn’t work for me? Silly billy.

(NOTE the following contains spoilers of the story and production!)

It was the most wonderful piece of theatre I’ve ever seen. Standing ovation theatre, in fact. I’m not one who usually cries at films or books but there is something about the theatre which has been known to make me well up. (I think that’s the could-have-been actress in me! I’ve been known to sob and gasp as the curtain goes up, for heaven’s sake.) In War Horse it was the sight of the very first glimpse of Joey as a foal which got me hunting for the hankie. But do bear in mind that I’ve not been well this week, had lost my voice and was really meant to be in my bed. However, I went through two cloth hankies throughout the evening, sobbing quietly to myself. It was the horses wot dun it. They were just so … glorious… majestic… breathtaking. I’d been told that very quickly you don’t notice the puppeteers. That wasn’t war horse puppetstrue for us, but it didn’t make it any less beautiful. What the puppeteers did, their focus was exquisite.  Never for one moment did their attention stray from their job, be it breathing, flicking a tail, stamping a foot or twitching an ear. I could have watched that all night long. I want to see it again now!

Am I gushing? Yes, I fear I am. Of course the story itself is what first drew me to it and that is beautifully done. There are a few changes but they don’t detract from the book really. I think the National Theatre did it extremely well and I loved the use of fences and poles to mark out areas on stage. The torn piece of the artist’s notebook which became the partial backdrop was a stroke of genius and well used. The gun shots scared the living daylights out of me each time – even when I knew it was coming – but perhaps that was because we were so close to the front. The continual smoke did catch our throats but I guess it was to allow people to get off and on stage without being noticed and I can see it was really effective during the war scenes. Big howls from me and others when Joey got stuck in the barbed wire. Oh my goodness, how heart rending was that? A horse screaming was gut-wrenching.

For my son it was less about the story and more about the horses – and the goose! I could see that the mechanics of it were what grabbed him. For me it was all of it. The birds soaring out above our heads, the horses, the lighter moments of the goose, Albert’s mother… och it was all wonderful. I’m gushing again!

And then it was over. And the cast came on. And we leapt to our feet with all those around us. I’ve never done that before. The cast looked genuinely touched too.

Just go and see it. Ok?

Oh you have?  Tell me what you thought.

In which Ruth reads a book and goes to the theatre

It has taken me ages to read this last book – Wool by Hugh Howey. I think I began it at the beginning of the month since when my life has become rather busy and my head has hit the pillow before I’ve even thought of opening the book. it was recommended to me by my Chiropodist as we are both in book groups and have similar tastes and often swap titles. This one is like the Hunger Games but for grown-ups. However it is not quite so page-turning until the latter quarter when I did really want to find out what was happening. It is a big book and tells of life in the future (post apocalypse) in a silo. People live in these deep silos where everything they need to exist is found. If you’re naughty you are sent out into the wilderness landscapes to die and, needless to say, our heroine suffers that fate. Good story, thought provoking, and possibly good discussions at a book group. It is part of a trilogy but I don’t know that I liked it enough to carry on. 3 stars.

Will Young CabaretLast night Son #1 and I went to see Cabaret at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh. Cabaret is my favourite film and musical so I’ve always wanted to see it on stage. Will Young was playing the emcee which was not a particular pull for me but obviously was for the many drunken young women staggering about the foyer at the interval! However he was absolutely brilliant. His voice suited the role perfectly and he was deliciously camp. The set and choreography were excellent and the first half whizzed by with thrusting crotches and singalong tunes. There were a few numbers which are not in the film and a slight change to the story. Instead of the young friend who is Jewish, in the play it is the landlady who falls in love with an old man who is a tenant and ends up not marrying him because he’s Jewish. The second half was much darker and the ending absolutely breathtaking and you could have heard a pin drop as the curtain fell.  Go and see it if you get the chance.

However, don’t ever buy tickets for the Upper Circle in the Kings if you want to straighten your legs ever again. It was the most uncomfortable evening I’ve ever spent and I have the shortest legs in the world. At the interval we all had to space ourselves out and dangle our legs over the chair in front!  (Not exactly comfy either.)

And just for those of you concerned about Rita Kitten… the miraculous recovery has continued. She is frisky and fun once more. Her eyes are bright, her gums and tongue pink instead of creepy white, and Lucy Pussy’s nose is out of joint once more. And she is eating like a cat possessed (of a large tapeworm!). So we give thanks for her continued good health and hope that it lasts.

In which Ruth visits the Ballet in Lent

“Can you go to the theatre in Lent?” I was asked by one of my little flock.

“Hmm,” I pondered, “I’m not sure that such frivolities are appropriate in Lent. What is it you are going to see?”

“Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Have you heard of them?”


“Oh they’re a hoot. All male ballet troup dancing the parts of women.”

“Oh dear. I’m not sure…”

“But we were going to take you. We thought it was right up your street. But we didn’t know if you went to the theatre in Lent.”

“Hell, yeh!”

And so we did, dear reader. We travelled into my home toun of Embra on Saturday night (yes! a Saturday night! when was I last out on a Saturday night?) to the Festival Theatre to watch a bunch of hairy and not so hairy men dress up as ballerinas and perform the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  I haven’t been to the ballet since I was a teenager and disgraced myself at the Nutcracker. There is something about a man in tights holding up a woman that just gives me the giggles and always has. As a result I haven’t trusted myself to go ever since. (I can only manage Opera with a bit of sticky tape across my mouth so I don’t singalong.)

BalletTrockWe were treated to Les Sylphides, Pas de Deux, the Dying Swan (with moulting feathers), La Vivandiere, and Walpurgis Night. The eyelashes, the lipstick, the hair, the legs, the underarm hair, the pointes, the tutus and the voile. It all added up to a scream.

The wonderful thing was that it was taken quite seriously so the skill was superb. Well, I don’t know much about ballet but it all looked very professional to me and my companions, who are aficionados, told me so. Then all of a sudden one of them would fall off the stage, or make a comedy face and off it would go into parody.

The theatre was full to the gunwales and everyone was complaining of sore cheeks as we left. If you ever get a chance to go, please don’t miss it.  Even in Lent.


The Corstorphine Road Nativity

Blog Warning !  The following may contain criticism. If this offends you, do not read on.

Lovely evening at the theatre last night with Junior Church leaders and parents and a few others thrown in for good measure. We started off over the road in The Spoon for a little snack and then off to see a play about a nativity play. Most of the actors will be known to many Scottish viewers as they either appear in Taggart, River City or Balimory, or so I was told. The actors all played the part of children aged about 7 doing a school nativity play. There were some really funny lines and observations but I must be getting old for I missed quite a bit of it because the sound was not great. In fact the sound was too loud and distorted and when the actors were speaking quickly we couldn’t quite make out what they said which was a great pity. Punchlines were often missed as we all whispered to one another, “What did they say?” and then missed the next bit! But on the whole it was amusing and a good night out.

A night at the theatre

Thank you to B & D for taking me to see Joseph last night at the Playhouse. I did see it once before with Philip Schofield as Joseph but this time it was quite a different production and had that blond Scottish chap from the TV show as Joseph. The dark haired one who came 2nd, I think, was the narrator and was very good with the most excellent diction. Keith, maybe?

We also had old W with us in his wheelchair so I got to sit next to him. What luxury to have all that leg room. Old W sang along to all the songs and thoroughly enjoyed himself. And I had a tear in my eye at the end when the most incredible technicolour coats appeared. The theatre affects me like that. I think its the frustrated actress in me.

So thank you to B & D for a lovely evening, and a fab meal at Guilliano’s.

Guys and Dolls

Last night we went to see Guys and Dolls and it was absolutely wonderful. Darius was the star of the show – what a tall man he is! Whatsisname who used to be Barry out of Eastenders was jolly good too. The choreography was superb and I think the male dancers were wonderful. So many superlatives!

My only complaint was with the seating in the Playhouse. It really is compact and I had to vie for the armrest with a very large gentleman on my right. You couldn’t cross your legs for love nor money. At the interval I moved into the empty seat behind us at the end of a row and it was much better. It also gave me a wonderful view of the orchestra which distracted me from the main show for one number. The percussionist was a man possessed leaped from zylophone to bells to other unknown banging things. Glorious!

Tutti Frutti

Last night Son #1 took me to the King’s Theatre to see Tutti Frutti as a belated birthday present. Both of us have fond memories of the series when it was on TV – although his memories were much clearer than mine which is a worry. The cast were excellent and the best lines were from Miss Toner.

We laughed out loud and tapped our feet, and all in all it was a great night out. I must go to the theatre more. I do love it. Frustrated actress that I am.

Black Watch

Last night G and I went to see Black Watch by Gregory Burke and performed by the National Theatre of Scotland. G was given free tickets because he lives in the flats next door to the venue and the noise level of the production is pretty loud so I guess they were trying to appease them.

Anyway, if you see nothing else in the Festival – go and see this. What an amazing piece of theatre! It is based on interviews with former BW soldiers who served in Iraq. We laughed, we cried, we jumped out of our seats and we gasped in amazement at the choreography. I’ve never seen anything done so cleverly or so poignantly. They were certainly worth the standing ovation they got.