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Equus

By Peter Shaffer
London Classic Theatre
Theatre Royal Winchester and touring
(2011)

Equus production photo

Peter Shaffer's 1970s play, Equus is given an authoritative revival in Michael Cabot's emotive and disturbing production for London Classic Theatre.

It is an uncomfortable, dark play concerning the blinding of six horses by the 17 year old Alan Strang, compellingly played by Mathew Pattimore. He produces a punchy, petulant and disturbed teenager.

He is tortured by his mother's (Anna Kirke) zealous religious beliefs and he substitutes the worship of Christ for an adoration of horses, following his first experience of riding when he was on a family seaside holiday.

His mentally scarred mind is treated by Dr Martin Dysard, superbly played by Malcolm James, who, with immense patience, perseverance and much inner turmoil, probes into Alan's troubled mind.

Dysard is ill at ease with himself, loosing faith in his own ability as a psychiatrist whilst living through his unfulfilled and now sexless marriage and is forced to reassess is own life.

Horses become Alan's obsession and he finds work at a local stable where, every three weeks, he takes one of the horses for a midnight gallop - boy and horse as one. Aidan Downing skilfully plays Nugget, wearing a beautiful equine mask, with almost balletic movement as Alan rides long into the night.

It is at the stables that Alan meets Jill Mason (Helen Phillips) and a tentative romance develops.

Following a night at the cinema to see one of those naughty early 70's Swedish sex films, they meet Alan's Dad (Steven Dineen), causing much embarrassment, and return to the stables where the young couple hesitantly make love in the presence of the horses.

Alan's gouging of the horses eyes in a frenzied panic is spine-tingling moving.

There is strong support from Carole Dance and Jamie Mathewman.

Directed with aplomb by Michael Cabot with a striking set and mask designs by Kerry Bradley and beautifully lit by Paul Green, this was an exceptional play that still has the power to shock.

Touring to Lighthouse Theatre Poole 1-3rd November, Landmark Theatre Ilfracombe 4-5th November, Buxton Opera House 8-9th November, Civic Theatre Chelmsford 10-12th November, Central Theatre Chatham 14-16th November, Lincoln Performing Arts Centre 17-19th November, Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre 22-23rd November and Marina Theatre Lowestoft 26-27th November.

Reviewer: Robin Strapp