Friday, March 23, 2007

Equus


last night I went to see the highly publicised play 'Equus' currently showing at the Gielgud Theater in London. The play is not for the fainthearted. It concerns the case of a teenage boy, Alan Strang, who savagely and inexplicably blinds six horses. He is sent to the psychiatrist Martin Dysart (widely thought to be based on RD Laing). Dysart is a frustrated Hellenist, dreaming of Ancient Greece and increasingly disillusioned with psychiatry. As Alan gradually reveals the lead-up to the shocking attack on the horses, it becomes that a bewildering conflation of consumerism, iconology, upbringing and a need to worship are implicated in Strang's actions. Dysart envies Strang's passion, and ends up denouncing a profession which seeks to 'cure' emotional extremes of which Dysart is in awe. It's a dark play, but also very funny in places. More ideas about the depiction of psychiatry in the play can be read here.


Much has been made of Daniel Radcliffe (famous for playing Harry Potter) stripping off and (very nearly) simulating sex. Not to mention him smoking on stage! But what about Radcliffe's acting ability? It's good, but not great. He veers between obstreperous teenager and vulnerable kid with not much to offer in between. I think he should have had long hair to lose the clean-cut schoolboy look. Also, his 'stare' is central to the play. Sitting up in the Grand Circle, this was lost on us -- he needed to use his head and neck more to emphasise his gaze. Yet he coped very well with the physically and mentally demanding second act. Richard Griffiths is outstanding as Dysart. The horses, played by dancers in masks and on stilt-like hooves, were excellent. They showed just the right combination of majesty and menace. For anyone with an interest in psychiatry, the play is well worth the ticket price.

3 comments:

aj said...

Daniel Radcliffe has certainly been disappointing on the big screen so far, although he has improved considerably since the first few Harry Potter films. I'm sure he's better on the stage, but I'm with you on his limited repertoire.

The play sounds fascinating - have you ever read Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry?

Giskin said...

No, although I've read his 'Liar'. Do you recommend it?

aj said...

One of the characters has a rather bizarre encounter with a horse that leads him to believe he has healing powers. I'll say no more in case you read it - suffice to say it is strange but entertaining.