Liam Rudden: War Horse puppetry don’t you stop . . .

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GERRY Anderson. Yes, I blame the Thunderbirds’ creator for my dislike of puppets. His shaky, wooden marionettes, each boasted a permanently fixed bemused expression long before Botox became popular.

Consequently, as regular readers know, I avoid anything featuring puppets. The musical Dr Doolittle, for example, lived up to its name in my book. Avenue Q left me ready to hit the road, and don’t get me started on the Muppets. Puppets just don’t cut it.

The problem is, there are very few really good puppeteers; performers who understand that the secret is to become one with the piece of wood or plastic they are manipulating.

So it was with more than a little apprehension that I signed up to sit through War Horse earlier this week, as the first ever UK tour of the smash hit play was launched - it comes to the Festival Theatre 22 January to 15 February 2014 (tickets on sale now).

The National Theatre’s War Horse is a play, which, to put it bluntly, stars a puppet horse. However, as I took my seat in The New London Theatre I was about to discover that Joey is much more than that.

Actually, I’d been given a sneak preview of Joey when he appeared at the launch earlier in the day. It was magical. Three actors bring this amazing creation to life, and it’s their skill as actors, not puppeteers, that make Joey flesh and blood. Cleverly disguised by their costumes and the design of the puppet, each lives and breathes the role. Within seconds, they are hidden in plain sight leaving only Joey, a magnificent hunter, for the eye to behold.

If Joey had made an impression at the launch, it was nothing compared to what was to come later in the two-and-a-half hour show. There’s no doubt, Edinburgh is in for a treat. A master class in puppetry, War Horse should be compulsory viewing for anyone who has ever thought of being the next Gerry Anderson. For everyone else, it’s an exhilarating piece of theatre.