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Previewed 16 February 2007, Opened 27 February 2007, Closed 9 June 2007 at the Gielgud Theatre in London
A major revival of Peter Shaffer's play Equus in London starring Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths and directed by Thea Sharrock with designs by John Napier.
Alan Strang seems a normal, obedient 17-year old with a passion for horses. Then one night he blinds six horses with a hoof pick. What drove him to it? His life seems routine, his family loving, his pursuits harmless and yet he has been placed under psychiatric surveillance - an unresponsive patient who is woken each night by terrible nightmares. Only psychiatrist Martin Dysart seems able to grasp the answer to this psychological puzzle.
The cast for this major revival of Equus in London features Richard Griffiths as 'Martin Dysart' and Daniel Radcliffe as 'Alan Strang' along with Jenny Agutter as 'Hesther Saloman' and Will Kemp as 'The Young Horseman & Nugget' along with Joanna Christie as 'Jill Mason', Jonathan Cullen as 'Frank Strang', Colin Haigh as 'Harry Dalton', Karen Meagher as 'Nurse' and Gabrielle Reidy as 'Dora Strang' with Joel Corpuz, Jami Quarrell, Greig Cooke, Temujin Gill and Jonathan Readwin as the 'Horses'. The production is directed by Thea Sharrock with designs by John Napier. Please Note: This production is not suitable for children!
When the ground-breaking production of Peter Shaffer's Equus premiered at The National Theatre on 26 July 1973 it's theatrical impact was unprecedented. It was the most talked-about new play in London. Now for the first time in over 30 years, a new production of Equus returns to London's West End - and once again Equus promises to be the theatrical event of the year. Richard Griffiths' incredible stage and screen career spans two decades. His recent London West End appearances include Heroes at The Wyndham's Theatre and The History Boys at The National Theatre, which he also played in on Broadway, winning a Tony. Daniel Radcliffe is best known for playing the title role of Harry Potter in all four of the feature films based on J.K Rowling's best-selling books.
"The director, Thea Sharrock, seems to know very well that the play's climatic flashback sex scene is its one and only selling point and wastes little time with any great flourishes or original effects... There is a world of difference between film and theatre acting... Inevitably, the the scenes Daniel Radcliffe shared with his fellow actors, it was their experience that drew my eyes to them." The Sunday Telegraph
"Peter Shaffer's Equus is without doubt a play that deserves to be treated with respect. In fact, for all its faults, this extraordinary and sometimes horrifying story... remains one of the great English postwar plays... Radcliffe is mesmerising, capturing all of Strang's weird charisma, his rage, his silently burning intensity, his accusatory stare, his mystery, his "keep out of my private sacred space" hatred... As a work of art, Equus is magnificent, though not perfect. Dysart talks too much, is too florid, too obviously Shaffer at times, haranguing his comfortable, middle-class, theatre-going audience. But Richard Griffiths is a joy in the role." The Sunday Times
"Thea Sharrock's production offers a sharply contrasting dramatic and emotional experience... Daniel Radcliffe, a competent actor, fares better than the play, though, frankly, he's not going to be the Hamlet of his generation. He's tough, touching and convincing as a troubled teenager whose preferred retort to adult enquiry is an insolent death-stare. How he must have longed for his invisibility cloak for the extensive nude scene. The poor boy has to run about, attempt sex and then - out of shame for what he has not done, or guilt for what he wanted to do - blind the horses with a hoof pick. Alan softens under the tender care of the psychiatrist Dysart, a gently probing Richard Griffiths, an actor with an astonishing gift for playing roles in which he is required to bring out the very best in adolescent boys. Physically, this huge Dysart makes the diminutive Radcliffe's Alan look small; psychologically, he makes him walk tall. When this relationship is under scrutiny, the play is as compelling as ever. But the thrust of the piece - that the unhinged are acting out of excessive passion, which psychiatry must exorcise, leaving them normal but passionless beings - now seems decidedly dodgy and the play as a whole feels dated... Sharrock's production lacks horsepower, however, perhaps because the once-startling stylisation has become de rigueur." The Mail on Sunday
Working closely with Peter Shaffer, director Thea Sharrock has made a number of minor adjustments to the original text of Equus for this major London revival: "We've looked very hard at everything and tried to make it feel as contemporary as possible. We are perhaps more familiar with psychiatry and its language than we were in 1973 yet, because Peter based the play in such a real medical world, the medical content feels extremely up to date. And the narrative is so strong, it's like reading a thriller. What is particularly liberating about the play is that Peter trusts the audience to use its imagination. You don't have to create an image that will tell you what the walls look like or which pictures would have been hung on them... It's a wonderful play, an exceptional piece of work. And because it's not recently been done professionally, that gives us an immense opportunity. Like all the best plays, Equus asks the questions but doesn't give you the answers. It looks at the way we treat teenagers in a society where there is a complete and utter absence of religion or worship and it asks what they are supposed to believe in now. Audiences should, we hope, experience a thrilling night at the theatre and come away with all these questions reverberating in their minds."
"With one particular horse, called Nugget, Alan embraces. The animal digs its sweaty brow into his cheek, and they stand in the dark for an hour - like a necking couple. And of all nonsensical things - I keep thinking about the horse! Not the boy: the horse, and what it may be trying to do. I keep seeing that huge head kissing him with its chained mouth. Nudging through the metal some desire absolutely irrelevant to filling its belly or propagating its own kind. What desire could that be? Not to stay a horse any longer? Not to remain reined up for ever in those particular genetic strings? Is it possible, at certain moments we cannot imagine, a horse can add its sufferings together - the non-stop jerks and jabs that are its daily life - and turn them into grief? What use is grief to a horse? You see, I'm lost. What use, I should he asking, are questions like these to an overworked psychiatrist in a provincial hospital? They're worse than useless; they are, in fact. subversive. The thing is. I'm desperate ... I'm sorry. I'm not making much sense. Let me start properly; in order. It began one Monday last month..." Martin Dysart, a pschiatrist.
Peter Shaffer on his play Equus: "One weekend I was driving with a friend through bleak countryside. We passed a stable. Suddenly he was reminded by it of an alarming crime which he had heard about recently at a dinner party in London. He knew only one horrible detail, and his complete mention of it could barely have lasted a minute - but it was enough to arouse in me an intense fascination... Every person and incident in Equus is of my own invention, save the crime itself; and even that I modified to accord with what I feel to be acceptable theatrical proportion. I am grateful now that I have never received confirmed details of the real story, since my concern has been more and more with a different kind of exploration."
Equus in London at the Gielgud Theatre previewed from 16 February 2007, opened on 27 February 2007 and closed on 9 June 2007.