Equus at Trafalgar Studio


Equus tells the story of a 17 year old boy, Alan Strang, who has blinded 6 horses. To save him from imprisonment Magistrate Hesther Salomon enlists the help of Psychiatrist, Martin Dysart. Through the relationship of Strang and Dysart’s developing, Equus looks at the treatment of children, in particular those who have carried out sadists acts, by psychiatrists. It looks at who the victims really are and how the psychiatrists sets out to cure the child and muses if a cure can ever be reached.

This play delivered a night of captivating theatre on many levels but my first mention must go to the stunning cast. Ethan Kai played Alan Strang and I was mesmerised by him. He embodies a sullen teenager one moment, obnoxiously singing TV jingles, and the next gently interacting with the horses, nuzzling into their neck. There were passages of time where Strang says very little throughout the play but his physicality alone managed to capture my attention and hold it throughout.

The strong physicality was a theme running throughout this production of Equus and nobody embodied it more than Ira Mandela Siobhan who took on the role of the horse, Nugget. The concept of the horses were portrayed by movement alone. Every movement Siobhan made reminded me of a horse; from the simple rippling of his back muscles to the angle his neck craned into Strang. The rest of the cast also appeared as horses throughout Equus and praise must go to Shelly Maxwell, the choreographer and movement director. Her vision for the horses movement was so spot on and executed perfectly by the whole cast.

Zubin Varla took on the role of Martin Dysart, a psychiatrists in his own crisis, questioning his own purpose. In between his own obsession with his failed marriage and Greek art he was introverted yet managed to convey huge philosophical ideas to the audience.

The whole design of the show enhanced the piece. The stage was draped on all 3 sides with white curtains, which thanks to clever lighting, changed colour. This helped change the mood from a stark hospital into scenes from a nightmare and create real moments of tension when needed. Cast swoop on from behind the curtains and shadows lurk just behind them out of sight. The sound design enabled the actors to do most of the work but this meant when there was a sound effect, such as the hypnotic tapping pen, the audience were removed from their comfort zone.

Bennett’s production of Equus becomes a timeless piece with commentary that never dates on the human psyche, full of sexual tension and physicality unlike something I have seen before.

Equus is running at Trafalgar Studios until 7th September. To find out more visit their website.

If you like this review of Equus you might also like my review of Vincent River, Six and Emilia.

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