12/04/2007 - 21/04/2007
by Peter Shaffer
directed by Jesse Peach
set design and construction by Steve Peach
PEACH THEATRE COMPANY
How can you treat a young boy who has blinded six horses? This will be psychiatrist Martin Dysart’s most challenging case yet. As he dissects the mind of Alan Strang, Dysart learns more about himself than he ever needed to know.
Peach Theatre Company brings this worldwide revival of Equus to the Playhouse Theatre in Glen Eden, Auckland.
Equus is a chilling British Drama that has just reopened in the West End with Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe.
Phil Adams, Ashley Hawkes, Annie Whittle, Paddy Wilson,
Elaine Vaughan, Steve Davis, Rohan Glynn, Sarah Gallagher,
Beth Allen, David Mitchell, Vasa Tasele, Russell Golding, Karlos Wrennall
Thrill in frenzy
Review by Jarrod Martin 20th Apr 2007
We have heard of "Who Dunnits," but this is more of a "Why did he do it?"
Told about an horrific act carried out by a disturbed young man that shocked local magistrates, playwright Peter Shaffer was inspired to "…create a mental world in which the deed could be made comprehensible."
Alan Strang (Ashley Hawkes), a petulant and deluded teenager, is guilty of stabbing out the eyes of six horses and is referred to psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Phil Adams), who attempts to discover the rationale behind Alan’s abnormal actions.
It seems there is an inconsistency between preach and practice in Alan’s parents. Father (Paddy Wilson), a stickler for puritanical behaviour, gets caught in a late night porn cinema by his son. His mother (Annie Whittle), who believes she married under her class, is unaware that the Book that keeps her strong has also poisoned her son’s mind. She does, however, make it clear that she cannot be held accountable for what her son has become.
Steve Peach’s set design consists of abstract wooden frames dressed with wire suggesting rural farm fencing, reinforcing a sense of entrapment felt by those admitted to mental hospitals. The majority of the cast sit out the scenes they’re not in on standard foyer chairs, creating a waiting room tableau. This convention allows quick transitions between scenes and adds mystique to the entrance of Equus (Steve Davis), a regal and beautifully sculptured stallion.
Hawkes’ portrayal of Alan Strang is masterful from go to whoa. Jolting the audience each time he ‘snaps’, he convincingly brings to life the fervent psyche that meets Shaffers’ goal of comprehending the crime. Both Annie Whittle and Patrick Wilson shine as Alan’s parents. Wilson largely adds desperately needed comic relief. Whittle’s Dora, on the other hand, gives an empathetic account of a woman scrambling to maintain her dignity.
Beth Allen plays the girl who seduces Alan in the stables and sends him spinning towards the play’s climax. She offsets Alan’s inability to express himself by offering us a warm young woman, honest and comfortable in her sexuality.
It is a shame that so much of the play relies on Phil Adams’ Dr Dysart. Although unarguably audible, it is an uncoloured performance lacking inner journey. He has the difficult task of portraying a highly acclaimed psychiatrist who hits crisis point when he is forced to reflect on how he values his own circumstances. Compared to his patients’ exhilarating experiences he is dead inside, ultimately deducing that numbness is the norm.
The play still triumphs. Director Jesse Peach very tastefully encompasses the homo-eroticism intrinsic to this play and his decision to set it in Cambridge New Zealand appeals to our delight in recognition.
Steve Peach’s horses spill onto the stage bare-chested and erect. They only appear in dim light and spasmodically ripple their pectorals to enhance their power … The choreographed stamping of hooves blends with the escalating heartbeat of Alan as he revels in their glory. And the thrill of his rise to frenzy as he becomes one with Equus wins thunderous applause.
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