“Equus” by Festival Players
Robert Martin Theatre, Loughborough.
Robert Martin Theatre, Loughborough.
Written by Peter Shaffer in 1973, it tells the story of a psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, who attempts to treat a young man, Alan Strang, who has a pathological religious fascination with horses. This is based on a crime that Shaffer had heard about involving a 17-year-old who blinded six horses in a small town near Suffolk. He set out to construct a fictional account of what might have caused the incident, without knowing any of the details of the crime.
The original stage production of “Equus”, which is Latin for horse, ran at the National Theatre in London between 1973 and 1975.
Alan Strang is brought in front of magistrates on a charge of blinding six horses. One of the magistrates seeks the help of child psychiatrist to unravel the mystery of what made the boy commit such a crime, and to attempt some kind of cure.
Through interviews with the boy's parents and Strang himself, Dysart starts to slot the pieces of the
Steve Illidge (Martin Dysart) is a brilliant story teller, and that's what is so fascinating about this play, the story itself and the way that it is told and played out in little scenes. You can see Dysart, by way of Steve, picking apart the information he gains about Strang and then piecing it back together as he plays his seemingly innocent games with Alan.
The story isn't just about Strang because the characters on the interim of Strang's life play such a major part in the telling of the story, and the build up to the crime.
Dora Strang (Cathy Rackstraw) the mother is deeply religious and although she said that she didn't like to push religion, she obviously had a certain influence on Strang.
Frank Strang (Nick Grainger), the father has some secrets he's kept from his wife and Alan inadvertently discovers one of them changing the whole chemistry in their relationship. Frank is an atheist who believed that watching TV was not good for Alan and would prefer him to have his head stuck in a book.
Hester Soloman (Julie Easter) is the magistrate who, practically saves Alan from being imprisoned with the key thrown away if left up to the other magistrates. Her female intuition proves to be right by asking Dysart to take on the case..
Jill Mason (Grace Lavender) was the stable girl who got Alan the job at the stables. She saw past Alan's shyness and developed a thing for him.
Dalton (Phil Burrows), the owner of the stables provided some useful information to Dysart which added another piece of the jigsaw to the puzzle.
Kirt Hammonds played Horseman and Nugget. Nugget being the horse that Strang favoured at the stables.
The other horses were played by Milo Hacker, Chris Marshall and Fred Wardale. Brilliant physicality in these roles to make you believe these were horses by their distinctive movementThe nurse who looked after Strang was played by Natasha Nicholls
Alan Strang was played by Dan Grooms. I've seen Dan only in comic roles before and seeing him play such a dark and damaged character is a real eye opener to his acting abilities. Strang at 17 is younger than Dan, only just, and to take on a role like this I know was a big thing for Dan, but he put in a power house of a performance.
Many people, when Daniel Radcliffe took on the role in London and then Broadway obviously focused on the nudity of the play. This section of the play was done with great confidence and, while being an essential part of the story, should not be made the main attraction because the story, the acting and the telling of the story is the main thing. You have to give Dan his due, he's a brave man for taking on the role because of the nudity and it takes a good actor to be as confident in his acting to portray such a dark and damaged soul as Strang.
Directed by Ingrid Daniels, she created such a sense of tension which built up gradually and left you hanging by the end of Act One, only to do the same in Act Two. I've seen one other production of this play years ago which made me feel uncomfortable but not for the same reasons that this version made me feel uncomfortable.
The whole atmosphere with the background music (Richard Daniels) and lighting (Dave Hill) at times
Designed by Andrew McGowan the set was reminiscent of a boxing ring and in this arena several battles between Strang and Dysart were fought out. A clever transparent back drop gave depth to the staging.
The big steely horse heads made you think that they could be horses with a little bit of imagination, These were on loan from the National Theatre.
A clever use of screens allowed you to envisage the inner mind and memories of Strang in flashbacks.
It's not too often that such a dark and powerful play is taken up by local theatre groups and that's why you need to take this opportunity to see this, at times harrowing classic on stage, where it belongs, stripped back and shocking.
“Equus” performed by The Festival Players is at the Robert Martin Theatre on the Loughborough University Grounds until Saturday 8 July 2017 and £1.00 form every ticket sold is to be donated to Rainbows Hospice for children and young adults.