Equus

Production: Equus
Venue: York Theatre Royal
Rating: ***

Despite being described by the director as a piece that represents characters suppressed by society and its expectations, York Theatre Royal’s depiction of Peter Shaffer’s infamous twentieth-century play seems to visually deny all sense of society. Set continually in one room with two austere white benches, the play has one focus – the horse.

Equus is renowned for its unequivocal shock value, effortlessly glamorised by a naked Daniel Radcliffe in the West End. But the true weight of the play lies with the question of what role society has played when a boy blinds a barn of horses in a moment of sexual frenzy. This is a pervading theme which Julian Ollive’s production seems to evade: Equus became a horrific scene of unreality.

The Young Actors Company, however, has produced a cast of watchable and believable actors. Freddie Hall’s performance as the neurotic protagonist developed an odd, idiosyncratic twitchiness and enthrallment. The finest performance certainly came from Paul Stonehouse as the play’s amalgamating underbelly, troubled psychiatrist Dysart.

When rivalled against a cast such as Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths, and tarnished with tabloid interest, it is conceivably difficult to retain a sense of originality and purpose to the characters and the plot. But for first-time viewers of the socio-psychological horror of Equus, York Theatre Royal seemed to fulfil many of the play’s intentions.

13 comments

  1. what are you on about?

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  2. 19 Oct ’09 at 9:58 pm

    Oliver Lester

    Didn’t really enjoy it myself. Left me quite depressed.

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  3. 27 Oct ’09 at 12:17 pm

    Theatre Critic

    Worst. Review. Ever.

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  4. Theatre Critic. Pipe. Down.

    Kind regards – Laura’s Biggest/Only Fan

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  5. 2 Nov ’09 at 12:21 pm

    Laura for God

    Theatre Critic – Best. Comment. Ever

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  6. 2 Nov ’09 at 12:21 pm

    Laura for God

    Theatre Critic – Best. Comment. Ever.

    Reply Report

  7. Regardless of whether this review is good, the real winner here is Kate Taylor. I love Kate Taylor.

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  8. Regardless of whether this review is good, the real winner here is Tommy Flynn. I love Tommy Flynn.

    p.s. I did not go home with him – honest

    Note by moderator: This is probably not Kate Taylor

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  9. I despise Cheesy Pop Soc and their aggressive brand of social networking (esp that propagated by you K Taylor). I sincerely hope it isn’t getting in the way of other societal obligations, Jim and Laura, or you may quickly find your heads rolling around my revolutionary feet.

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  10. I have only just seen this thread…. The real winner is now surely the (untrue) rumour that Kate Taylor has just put into people’s heads….!

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  11. Regardless of whether you despise Cheesy Pop Soc the real winner here are Hanson. I love Hanson.

    Note by moderator: This is probably not Kate Taylor

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  12. This is the only comment by the real me.

    All of the above was not me.

    x

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  13. Equus is one of the final shows in the highly successful TAKEOVER Festival at the York Theatre Royal but one I’m afraid I wasn’t particularly enamoured by.

    Psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Paul Stonehouse) is brought the most challenging case of his career by magistrate Hesther Saloman (Rebecca Beattie). Alan Strang (Freddie Hall) seems like a normal seventeen year old. His life appears routine and his family loving. However, Alan’s passion for horses and an encounter with stablehand Jill (Claire Morley) has led him to behave in the most devastating way. Only Dysart seems able to grasp the answer to this psychological puzzle.

    Stonehouse is the only older actor in this production by the Young Actors Company but it was his opening with Beattie that sank my hopes immediately that this production was going to be anything more than pedestrian. It was completely flat from then on and throughout the first half and only picked up slightly, as it had to, in the final brutal scene.

    With such a young cast it should not be expected that they have the stage or life experience their characters demand and as such the paucity of truthfulness in any of the relationships has to be blamed on the director. Steve Pratt in the Press describes the direction as understated – in my opinion though it was staged, lit and largely blocked well these young actors were seemingly left to their own interpretation.

    Key to the whole performance is of course the relationship between Dysart and Strang. I was reminded of a fine production of ‘Duet for One’ I’d seen, another psychiatrist patient play, where the acts of listening, interpreting and responding were allowed time and due weight. For example in this production several mentions were made of Strang’s stare but we were never given time to either see it or to witness Dysart’s contemplation of it.

    This was emblematic of a bigger problem. What was missing was the complex and multi-layered character relationships and in Equus if you don’t have that there is very little left to contemplate.

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