Such has been the giddy anticipation for War Horse’s Brighton run that it feels like it’s taken an age for the show to arrive here.

It lived up to all expectations on opening night, though, starting with an absolute bang – literally at times given the amount of gunfire and explosions that litter the play.

Already a hit in London, Broadway and China, War Horse is a tour de force of inventive set design, mesmerising choreography and a captivating storyline.

In theatre terms, the show is about as close as you will get to a cinema blockbuster.

Steven Spielberg adapted Michael Morpurgo’s original children’s novel into a money-spinning Hollywood movie in 2010, bringing the book’s war scenes to life in dramatic fashion.

The brilliant creative crew behind the stage version achieve a similar effect, swapping lavish scenes for ingenious set-pieces and A-list actors for an enthusiastic cast of young talent.

The story follows Albert Narracott (Thomas Dennis) and Joey the horse from the rural plains of Devonshire to the bloody battlefields of France.

When Albert’s drunken father Ted (Gwilym Lloyd) sells Joey to the British battalion, Albert is devastated. He embarks on heroic quest to find his beloved horse.

Along the way Joey falls into the hands of a sympathetic Nazi soldier, Friedrich (Peter Becker), who shares Albert’s love for all things equine.

It is this part of the story where War Horse flexes its muscles. The fundamental message of the play is one of empathy, understanding and an acknowledgement that the destruction of war does no good to any party in the conflict.

Friedrich is a terrific example of how War Horse shows all sides of the story and refuses to indulge in tub-thumping patriotism.

There are some astonishing visual feats. The scene in which the foal version of Joey makes way for the bigger animal is fantastic and the makeshift boat that takes the Devonshire regiment over the channel is a masterclass in innovation.

The sight that greets the boys when they arrive in France is truly disturbing, with charred, skeletal figures staggering about like shellshocked scarecrows.

Despite the fact that the Brighton Centre is not a traditional theatre venue, the arena space gives the show a new dimension.

The recurring appearance of a lone folk singer was a nice touch, too, especially considering Sussex’s proud history in the genre.

And yet, despite all of the play’s dazzling ideas, some of the most affecting scenes simply involve Joey and the puppet masters who control him.

Whether he’s attempting to jump over a barbed wire fence or galloping around with glee, the horses’ balletic movements are a wonder of modern theatre.

This point was not lost on anyone in the Brighton Centre.