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Jul 16th, 2019
Cantering into the West End after a highly acclaimed run at Stratford East earlier this year, it is safe to report that Ned Bennet's revival of Peter Shaffer's 1973 masterpiece is thoroughly deserving of this transfer.
An utterly scintillating piece of theatre, this production is truly a brilliant adaptation, weaving performance and stagecraft into the reigns of a horrifying yet cathartic tale.
To those who don't know, or have held the play at arm's length because you think you do know and don't want to go there, Equus is the story of Alan Strang, a young man being treated in a Hospital due to a cruel crime committed against the horses at his local stable. Exorcising his mania is Dr. Martin Dysart, a Child Psychologist with problems of his own (though decidedly less equine in nature). When these two meet so begins Alan on his road to recovery. But as Alan starts to open up on the cause of his fascination, Dysart can't help finding himself admiring the young man's fanaticism. Searching for his own sense of Worship, Dysart hates his role in curing' his subjects and thus removing their identity', it's a strange concept in a world more comfortable with discussing mental illness, but no less compelling to see this duality at play.
In Dysart, the excellent Zubin Varla cuts a rumpled yet sharp figure, seemingly out of control yet highly considered. It's a stunning performance, and against newcomer Ethan Kai as Strang, it is certainly one of the most arresting to be seen in London at the moment. The whole cast is strong, including Ira Mandela Siobhan whose athletic movement (choreographed by Shelley Maxwell) is unlike anything I've ever seen, but it's Kai who steals the night. A snarling thug one minute and an anxious teenage boy the next, he fizzes with the anticipation of a just lit firework, is likable and terrifying all at once. Shaffer's words zing with dark and light, from the blue jokes to Shakespearean monologues, this cast inhabit it all, making it seem as fresh as it was penned yesterday.
All this on Georgia Lowe's stark stage, set to Giles Thomas' dynamic score and illuminated by Jessica Hung Han Yun's frenetic lighting design, imbues the show with an intensity that never lets up. Like the horse god roiling in Alan's head, Equus will consume you, only unlike Alan, you won't want to be cured of having experienced it.
View our show pages for more information about Equus, Trafalgar Studios 1.
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