Whether you have seen EQUUS before or never seen it before you should make the time for this co-production by English Touring Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East. Brilliantly directed by Ned Bennett it brings a bold new and immersive experience to the Bristol Old Vic stage.
A heady mix of physicality, extraordinary interpretation of Shaffer’s compelling script and the exquisite use of silence. The addition of sublime acting by Zubin Varla (Dysart) and Ethan Kai (Alan Strang) make this production intensely riveting and captivating. The audience rendered silent, even breathless as the story unfolds.
This phycological thriller exposes a teenage boy’s pathological fascination with horses and unpicks the familial complexities and personal experiences which led him to blind six horses. His story revealed through the narrative painted by troubled child psychiatrist Dr Martin Dysart (Zubin Varla), whose interpretation is exquisite. A constant stage presence, Varla manages to be in equal part omnipresent and invisible. His mastery of lengthy speeches and embodiment of the character’s complex and internal struggles show brilliance. A performance that is 100% watchable, credible and stunning.
Ethan Kai captures the very essence of teenager Alan Strang – who is both afraid and vulnerable yet assured and disconcerting. His portrayal brings conviction and commitment to the internal battle and confrontational interviews with his psychiatrist. In the final scenes as he ‘relives’ the night of his crime his torment is offset by a fresh, lively and totally engaging performance by Norah Lopez Holden as Jill the stable girl who takes him to the barn that night!
This is undeniably a technically breath-taking show. Movement director Shelley Maxwell has worked her magic; watching dancers/actors Ira Mandela Siobhan and Keith Gilmore transform into horses is little short of on-stage metamorphosis. Designer Georgia Lowe has created a masterfully simple set – a white curtained box which portrays the confines of both the padded cell and the openness of space and infinite possibility. It is coupled with disquieting lighting design by Jessica Hung Han Yun.
In the final shattering glare of awakening, set and lighting combine to create dramatic stage craft and a stark backdrop for Dysart’s closing speech.
Tantalising, engrossing and immersive theatre at its best.