The theater production of “War Horse,” after the best-selling 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo, premiered in October 2007. And now, in 2014, they are playing in Japan at the Tokyu Theater Orb (Shibuya) from July 30th†until August 24th. “War Horse” tells the story of a British young boy (Albert), son of a troubled farmer, and his horse Joey, who live in the troubling period of the early 20th century during World War 1.
The production displays this horrifying period from every angle through the eyes of the horses. It shows the love mankind is able to feel for equine life. We were very fortunate to be invited to watch this award winning performance and we both could not wait to go to the play. Commercials regarding the play could be found everywhere, and it did not take long before we found the first few at Shibuya station as well as at the 183 meter tall Hikarie Building.
We arrived in Shibuya a few hours early and decided to take a look around the station and the Hikarie Building. The sun was shining brightly outside and the weather was hot, incredibly hot. When we were able to find a relatively cool place in the shadows nearby the station, we took a good look at the Hikarie Building. One of the tallest buildings in Shibuya was towering above the other buildings and it was glistering in the bright sun. Because it was the middle of the day, we were unfortunately unable to see the building’s extensive use of LED. While we could see the lower floors with the shopping, dining and entertainment departments, our eyes soon stopped between the 11th and 16th floor; the Tokyu Theater Orb.
Or at least, we saw the stunning glass atrium in which the theater is nestled, which sticks out from the rest of the Hikarie Building. The Tokyu Theater Orb is run by Bunkamura and contains 1,972 seats. By looking at the glass atrium, we were already able to conclude the fantastic view over Shibuya we would get from inside the theater. While climbing the escalator, we saw our view of Shibuya getting more beautiful and bigger with every floor we climbed. There were already people near the entrance to the Tokyu Theater Orb, waiting with anticipation.
As we were still early, we decided to grab some lunch, which was easy to get as there were several restaurants just a couple of floors beneath us. Lunchtime had started so it was getting more crowded every minute. While enjoying a nice meal, we discussed our expectations regarding the play. I myself had heard a lot of positive things regarding the show and I had seen the commercials everywhere. Not just in Japan, but also in my native country. However, I had not read the book, nor watched Spielberg’s movie, and therefore had to judge this book (or play) by its cover. Nevertheless, the commercials and posters, and the puppet-horses in them, looked astonishing and we both could not wait for the show to get started.
After lunch, it was time to get back to the 11th floor. It was getting a little more crowded, while we walked around. We could clearly see the shape of an orb, made of metal bars that stretched all the way to the top of the 16th floor. As you are still able to walk under it, you get the feeling that the theater, or stage, itself is floating on air. The incredible orb leaves you in awe for a little while, as you are unable to continue with your plans without stopping to look at it. On one side, you have this incredible structure, or better, a work of art, while on the other hand, you have an amazing view over Shibuya as well as other places of Tokyo. Truly astonishing. In between, you can find the escalator to the entrance hall and bar of the theater.
We walked up the escalator and went through the check-in gates. We were given a small stack of reading material containing commercials on other shows and performances. Information on the Tokyu Theater Orb and performances was available and it was possible to observe the orb from up close. The orb started to look bigger every second.†Nearby the stairs towards the hall there was a board depicting the names of all the actors involved in today’s show. They were all Non-Japanese names, as the North American Tour cast would perform this show in English. Lucky me!
When looking outside, you could see Scramble Crossing, as crowded as usual, and other parts of Shibuya. When looking outside from another window, we could see other parts from the city of Tokyo, including Harajuku and Yoyogi Park, as beautiful and green as ever. As the sun became stronger, they lowered the screens to protect our eyes. However, we were still able to enjoy the view.†We moved on and went up another escalator to the next floor. The view became more spectacular with every floor, but that was not the most important thing on this floor. While walking past the windows, we were guided towards the bar. There were some people eating and enjoying a drink, as they watched over the beautiful city of Tokyo. Once again, what a view! The stylish interior of this floor, combined with the view, makes you want to stay forever! The bar offers special menu’s themed on the performance. For “War Horse” the bar offered the Topthorn Beer and the non-alcoholic Joey Cocktail, named after two horses in the play. The Topthorn Beer is a Heartland beer with a sweet liquor of black tea added to it, while the Joey Cocktail is both sweet and a bit sour and consists of several kinds of mixed fruit. We tried the drinks and they were both delicious. We did not have much time until the play would start, but we were still enjoying our drinks and the view over Shibuya and Yoyogi Park.
We finished before the show started and took a quick peak at the hall, or the place where it would all happen pretty soon. My eyes opened wide upon entering the hall. What a beautiful theater. The dark blue walls, combined with the white walls of the second and third tribunes, give a feeling that you are floating. Add the lights and the room gives of a magical atmosphere. The seats go on all the way to the stage, which gives a personal and intimate feeling with the production. Of course, we are not able to show the stage, as it could spoil the fun for those readers who have yet to visit the play. However, we can tell you that there is a screen on each side of the stage with the Japanese translation of the English text. In addition, the stage is convertible for any kind of production and the installations are highly flexible.
Next up came the testing of the beautifully colored seating. I was afraid they might be too small for me due to fact that I am taller and bigger than the average Japanese man. However, I did not need to worry at all, as it was possible for me to sit down and even move around. I was also able to put one leg over the other, without the chance of kicking a very unfortunate person in front of me on his or her head. The seating was extraordinarily comfortable and soft. Once I got to my most comfortable position, I felt complete support for my back. I thought to myself that the seating was perfect to enjoy the show. Not just the seating, the entire ambience of the hall was perfect! Let the show begin!
Bit by bit, people started to enter the 29m (from stage to the last row) hall in search for their seat. Within a few minutes, the whole theater was filled and an announcer stated the show was about to begin. We once again made ourselves comfortable. The lights went out and the music started to play.
End of Act 1. The lights went back on and everyone started to chat with each other. They were talking about what we have seen thus far, no doubt. So did we. What a great first act (do not worry, we will not give away any spoilers). Although the horses are puppets, made by the Handspring Puppet Company (Cape Town, South Africa), they look incredibly life-like. You actually forget that they are puppets and start to see them as real horses. They are even able to gallop and to breathe! You sympathize with them. And the fact that the actors speak the way they did in the early 20th century helps with the experience of living in this horrifying period of World War 1.
Even though the space for the legs was sufficient enough, I got up to stretch my legs, while I took another look around this magnificent theater. Other people were moving towards the exit, either to get a drink at the bar or to use the restroom. I sat down again and restarted the conversation with my partner on how she felt about the play thus far. It turned out she and I were on the same page. After 20 minutes, everyone has returned. The lights went out and the second act began.
The show has ended. After the well-performed stars have received their applause, they show the lead stars of the show: the horses. The actors who gave it their all to portrait these almost completely hand-made horses, which mostly consist of cane and nylon, as life-like as possible, received their fair share of loud applause, as here and there people start to rise up from their seats. So did I. What a well-performed production. Well acted, well sang with beautiful songs. You feel the sadness, the happiness and the horror. And you are able to feel every emotion through the eyes of these horses. Well done! The audience slowly exited the hall, talking about nothing else but the wondrous play they just witnessed. We followed the rest of the audience and walked towards†the exit, impressed by the show and the theater.
We arrived at the exit, seeing the sun still shining brightly outside. Since the show started at 1:30 in the afternoon, it was still early and the sun was still powerful. However, we did not care, as the Hikarie Building is conveniently located next to Shibuya station, and we were able to get there without going outside. All we could talk about was the show and the horses. Upon turning around, we could see the Hikarie Building towering above the other buildings. While this building in itself is astonishing, it hides a beautiful theater within. We fully recommend visiting the Hikarie Building and, more importantly, the Tokyu Theater Orb. It is a beautiful theater, constructed into perfection. The combination of dark blue and white walls, combined with the perfectly constructed and highly comfortable seats, add to the experience of the play you visit. We also highly recommend going to the musical “War Horse.” The play is well constructed, while the stage remains relatively simple. All the attention is drawn to the actors and the horses and they are the ones making the play. You will laugh and you will cry, but you will also get to see the horror of World War 1, whether it is from the side of the British, the French or the Germans. Joey, the main horse of the play, will guide you through this experience and you will start to care for him. Go Joey!
- War Horse
- Period of Performance:
- July 30th 2014 - August 24th 2014
- Tokyu Theater Orb (Shibuya Hikarie 11th Floor 2-21-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
- ￥13,000, A-seat ￥10,000, B-seat ￥8,000 (Ticket Specifications: Tax-included)
X Please refrain from bringing children still in primary school
X English Performance / Japanese Subtitles provided
- Performance Time
- 2 hours 35 minutes (Intermission Included)
written by ：C.R