by Peter Shaffer.
Tour to 14 July 2012.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary 1 May at Palace Theatre Mansfield.
A wordy but rewarding evening.
A hospital psychiatrist is asked by a magistrate friend to look into the case of a youth up before the Bench for blinding six horses by stabbing them in the eyes. In many respects Equus has dated since it first appeared in 1973, but in the hands of the excellent London Classic Theatre, and its Artistic Director Michael Cabot, it still manages to speak loudly and clearly.
This is a wordy but rewarding evening.
With its debate about the harmful or otherwise effects of television, its protagonist trapped in a sterile marriage but not walking away from it, backstreet fleapits for the dirty raincoat fraternity, Equus is all very seventies.
But there’s a satisfying thematic complexity. We get the dualities usually associated with Peter Shaffer. Martin Dysart the psychiatrist is drawn to things southern and Classical Greek; he thinks his wife a Scottish dentist “all right if you’re kinky for northern hygiene”. He’s in a dead marriage; but the youth Alan Strang is entitled to taunt him: “At least I galloped. When did you?” The sexually repressed Strang contrasts with his easy-going would-be seducer Jill, Strang’s bible-punching mother with his atheist father, and so on.
Performances are strong or better. Malcolm James is made for the demanding part of the world-weary Dysart; burned out by work but with nothing to look forward to at home, he has face, manner and voice to match. Matthew Pattimore is convincing as Strang, the horse mutilator. He and Helen Phillips, as Jill, handle their nude scene admirably – like all such scenes on stage, it’s totally non-erotic.
The horses, heads designed to resemble classical Greek helmets, are done beautifully. On a set highly suggestive of an amphitheatre they look and function like a Greek chorus.
With War Horse having been been phenomenally successful, it’s surely a neat marketing ploy to tour Equus again at this time. That’s not the sole justification for putting it on though – it’s a seriously good play.
Nugget/Young Horseman: Stuart Angell.
Alan Strang: Matthew Pattimore.
Martin Dysart: Malcolm James.
Nurse/Jill Mason: Helen Phillips.
Hesther Salomon: Fiz Marcus.
Frank Strang: Steve Dineen.
Dora Strang: Joanna Waters.
Harry Dalton: Jamie Matthewman.
Director: Michael Cabot.
Designer: Kerry Bradley.
Lighting: Paul Green.
Costume: Katja Krzesinska.
Horse Head Construction: Julia Jeulin, Fiona Gourlay.