Wednesday 27 June 2012
Theatre review: Equus
With a touring production, Cabot is unable to copy the original production's conceit (repeated in 2007) of having some of the audience onstage; he does, though, follow Shaffer's suggestion that the whole cast should remain onstage at all times, keeping a beady, judgmental eye on proceedings. Kerry Bradley's design takes its cue from Dysart's fascination with classical Greek civilisation, the stage becoming a miniature stone amphitheatre, the horse masks done in bronze. But the plotline of Dysart's own mental and spiritual crisis remains fairly sidelined. It's interesting that, as someone who read the play and workshopped it before seeing someone else's production, I find Dysart's problems, on the page, to be the main focus of the play, but in both professional productions I've seen they've been overshadowed almost completely by Alan's storyline. The psychiatrist's own sexuality is similarly nonexistent; I've heard of productions that have suggested an attraction to Alan, but this isn't here. More evident in the text is a spark between Dysart and the magistrate Hesther, but James' performance sees him treating her as a sounding board and nothing else. Fiz Marcus, in an otherwise very flat performance, does suggest some attraction on Hesther's part, but it's clearly not reciprocated.
As happens sometimes, I may have got slightly distracted from the matter at hand. I really don't want to compare this too much to Thea Sharrock's production as each stands on its own, but given how spectacularly the scene of blinding the horses was done then, it's particularly disappointing that Cabot here opts to go for a blackout and sound effects instead of showing it; even in the absence of another version to compare it to, missing out the climax of Alan's journey is surely disappointing. But otherwise, this is a solid production with a couple of very good performances, of a play that's starting to rather creakily show its age, but does still have enough inventiveness and power at its core to make it worth reviving. (And though it's rare for us to agree in such matters, Richard and I both thought we'd rather have seen Stuart Angell get his kit off. According to the programme he's been Joey in War Horse before, so horses would appear to be a specialty; maybe he can do Epsom Downs next.)
Equus by Peter Shaffer is booking until the 30th of June at Greenwich Theatre; then continuing on tour to Welwyn Garden City, Maidenhead and Frome.
Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including interval.
¹except judging by the majority of Google searches that lead to this blog, that is precisely what people expect to find here, can you imagine!