Venue: York Theatre Royal
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.