Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Nottingham Playhouse

When you mention "Equus" people will automatically think of Daniel Radcliffe baring  all, but there is so much more to this play. That is just a very small part of the story which, as this play is performed by the Nottingham Playhouse Advanced Youth Theatre Group, there is no full nudity.

For those who don't know their Latin, Equus means horse, and while horses are quite involved in this story, the actual story is about 17 year old Alan Strang, a young man with a strict atheist for a father and an excessively religious mother, both wanting Alan to be like them. No wonder the poor boy is confused and turns to horses for comfort.And also about the psychiatrist who attempts to treat Strang for his pathological religious fascination with horses.

After blinding six horses at the stables that he helps out at, he is saved from prison by Heather Solomon, a social worker, by getting psychiatrist Martin Dysart, to take on the case and get to the bottom of why Strang did what he did.

Strang has been seriously damaged by his parents which leads him to singing TV commercials instead of answering questions about what has happened, but slowly Dysart manages to crack through this hard wall that Strang has built around himself for protection, and gets to the real truth. Nature or Nurture, a question that is brought to the fore here.

This particular theatre group's acting ability belie their tender years and there are some brilliant performances from Jacob Seelochon, the psychiatrist who not only breaks down the walls around Strang, but also discovers a few home truths about his relationship with his wife, thanks to Strang's revelations.Jacob is a very natural, passionate and dramatic actor, which is what is needed for this role and not only that, he has the majority of the lines in the play as well, delivered unfalteringly. An excellent performance.

Another excellent performance is delivered by Tom Martin as Strang. Sensitively playing out the mental torture he keeps locked away in his mind, Slowly peeling away the protective skin of the character to reveal the soft underbelly of the hurt teenage Strang. An excellent comparative of the dark denial side and the desperate longing to be rid of his nightmares and past. I have seen Tom in several roles in various theatres in Nottingham but this has to be his finest hour to date.

Some wonderful supporting actors in Will Harrison as the controlling father Frank Strang, Eleanor Sharkey as the over religious  mother, Dora Strang, Paige Peddie as the social worker Heather Solomon, who you feel that without her, Strang, would have been in a much worse place than the place he finally ended up at.

It was a good call that director, Sarah Stephenson, decided to keep the play set in the 70's, which gave rise to some wonderful retro outfits and facial hair (Couldn't work out whether Will's sideburns and moustache were his own or facial props). The play, by Peter Shaffer, was written in 1973.

Sound and light play a big part in any theatre production and the sound design by Thomas Preston was timed to perfection and the clever and effective lighting was designed by Stephanie Bartle.

Performed in the intimate Neville Studios above Cast bar, it was staged in the round with three sides for the audience and the fourth being set out like a jury's bench in a court room with the supporting actors taking their turns to weave in and out of the action when needed.

There is a section of the script delivered by Jacob about passion,and this so apt for this play and this theatre group because you can feel the passion that every actor has for this play and performing which makes this harrowing play so very realistic and an absolute joy to see.

"Equus" is on at The Neville Studios at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 16 August 2014

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