Thursday, 5 April 2007


poster of Equus

As hinted a while back when those pictures appeared, on Tuesday I went to the Gielgud Theatre to see Harry Potter's knob Equus with Daniel Radcliffe. By some strange coincidence, I found myself if not in the same, at least in a neighbouring seat to the one, right up at the back of the gods, I had when I went to see Judy Dench in All Is Well That Ends Well a couple of years ago. As a result of being in the "cheap" seats, I found myself with a peppering of obvious Harry Potter fans in their charity shop finery.

The play is a dark tale of obsession where Radcliffe plays the role of Allan Strang, a 17 year old stable boy who finds himself having to explain to Richard Griffiths, the psychoanalysist Martin Dysart, why, one night, with no apparent reason, he blinded the six horses he was taking care of. Soon we learn about the Strand familly and its idiosyncrasies but also about Dysart's regrets about his own passionless life.

The story, told through Dysart's eyes, is not linear and different time-planes keep intertwining with each other, weaving a dense narrative net. By the end of the play, we know that Dysart has sacrificed his life to his carreer helping children while being trap in a loveless marriage. Today he is not so sure that what he does is right. His encounter with Strand whom he "liberates" from his obsession with the eponymous primival equine spirit, seems to be the catalyst of his realisation that even if it can turn into painful and messy business, giving oneself up to passions is better than evening spent looked at ancient greek art books seated opposed an estranged woman and is ultimately the only way to live.

the facade of the Gieguld Theatre hidden by a giant poster for EquusThis is, I think a very daring and courageous choice for Radcliffe to have made for his debut on the stage. Although he is world famous and has several very successful films under his belt, he has played little else than the one role of Harry Potter and never in front of an audience. Here, not only is he tackling a difficult and heavy subject, he also has to take off his kit and run around stark naked for a good fifteen minutes on stage, even having to enact sexual intercourse with one of his female co-actors.

As the play enfolded, and despite the fact that it is also funny, I started to wonder whether the fans would start leaving in bewilderment, as I had seen Lee Evans' fans leave when I went to see Samuel Beckett's Endgame. I suppose the play was not strange enough and perhaps more in tune with the psyche of fans of wizards and magic than Endgame would have been with fans of slapstick and popular comedy. I didn't notice anyone leaving. This might also have something to do with the high quality of the production and of the acting.

The play has some resonance with how I feel about my own life. My removed position from the stage gave me a detachment that prevented me, fortunately perhaps, from indentifying with and feeling strongly the themes explored by the play. Still my regret is that the play only exposes the problem without giving us an insight into what Shaffer may think to be its solution. That's back to the drawing board for me...

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