WAR Horse arrived at The Bristol Hippodrome last night with a sweeping grandeur that had the audience enthralled from start to finish.

This production of Michael Morpurgo’s celebrated book, directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, is epic in scale and ambition, and yet at times the brilliant staging is simplicity itself.

Over the course of several hours we were wrung out by a superb ensemble, who managed to take the audience on a journey from comforting Devon farmlands to the wastelands of the battlefields of France during the Great War.

At the heart of the drama is man’s intense relationship with animals, and it is the astonishingly life-like horses, created with ground-breaking puppetry work by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, which steal the show.

The word “puppetry”, however, does not really do what we see on stage justice. The skill of the performers who control each horse turns the wooden frames into the breathing, galloping horses that we see on stage, ensuring that the audience is completely invested in their characters and what becomes of them.

While the life-size horses take centre stage, the ensemble ensure that the action moves seamlessly from one scene to another.

Thomas Dennis brings a tenderness and naivety to the role of Albert Narracott, the young boy who finds his beloved horse Joey sold to the Cavalry and shipped off to France at the outbreak of World War One.

Albert sets off on a treacherous journey to bring Joey back home and it is here that the full horror of war is exposed. This is not a quiet show – gunfire and explosions at the end of the first half and throughout the second half contrast with the relative peace on the farm at the start of the show.

Last night was a particularly special night as it was exactly 10 years ago since War Horse first opened.

Seven million people have seen War Horse in that decade, making it the National Theatre’s most successful production to date.

If you are not one of those, then do not miss this chance to see this extraordinarily powerful show.

  • War Horse is at The Bristol Hippodrome until November 11. Visit atgtickets.com for tickets.