"...the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being."
I wondered how long it would be before I used an Oscar Wilde quotation. Today's the day, people.
Except I would amend it to "...the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a horse."
I don't know - when I think of puppets, I suppose what comes into my mind is Sooty or Basil Brush, or, heaven forfend, Pinky and Perky.
Until I saw War Horse last night.
Here's an extract from a review by Charles Spencer. I couldn't say it better myself so why try?
"Joey and the other horses in the show are truly magnificent creations by the Handspring Puppet Company which don't aim for picturesque realism but with their wooden framework, translucent fabric skins, and extraordinary mobility somehow capture the very essence of everything equine."
Every movement, every nuance of behaviour was so perfectly, unutterably the essence of HORSE that they came alive in a heartbeat. After no time at all, I didn't notice the three (always visible) puppeteers - two inside and one operating the neck, head and ears.
The ears! Extraordinary. Whoever choreographed the movements, if choreographed is the right word, had a knowledge of horses as intimate as my own. Faultless.
And I was willing those horses on. Willing them to survive. Weeping with rage at the fate of some of them and at the inhumanity and barbarism of mankind. Weeping with joy at the end when Albert and Joey find each other again.
Okay, so perhaps I DID say it better than Charles Spencer.
The film of the book is in post-production, release date December 28th of this year. I find it hard to imagine how REAL horses could be made to capture the moods, expressions and behaviour so perfectly as those puppets did.
How strange is that?
Oh, did I mention I enjoyed War Horse?