Review: Equus at Nottingham Playhouse

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Equus is the play recently made famous by Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, who bravely stripped completely naked on stage when he played the role of disturbed 17-year-old horse maimer Alan Strang.

Written in 1973 by Peter Schaffer, this 2007 outing in the West End undoubtedly introduced a new and younger audience to the play.

It is being performed by Nottingham Playhouse’s Advanced Youth Theatre Company this week, but before any doubts about a performance by not just amateurs but by ‘kids’ creep in, wait - this is an outstanding production.

Being shown in the theatre’s Neville Studio, a tense atmosphere is created on entering the performance space.

This is thanks to the presence of the cast on stage, sitting along the back like a Greek chorus, and the set up of the stage itself, which has audience members on three sides and extremely close to the action.

Equus tells the story of Martin Dysart, a child psychiatrist who takes up the case of Strang after the teen inexplicably blinds six horses with a sharp hoof pick.

As Dysart probes deeper into Strang’s life in an effort to understand why he committed an act of such violence, he uncovers the boy’s obsession with horses which stems from a kind of religious fanaticism and manifests itself in a sexual attraction to the animals and the horse god Equus.

Dysart works to rid Strang of the hold of Equus over him but in doing so comes to realise that however misplaced, the boy has experienced a passion and sense of life that he, trapped in a loveless marriage, obsessed with Ancient Greece and confined by society norms, never has.

The story is strong and difficult, but the young actors perform it with great maturity and never shy away from its controversial content.

Jacob Seelochan as Dysart is hypnotic almost in his presentation, keeping you riveted throughout and handling the heavy burden of the doctor’s dialogue excellently.

Tom Martin portrays the complex Strang extremely well, taking him through a range of positions, from aggressor, to victim and from freak to ‘normal’, tormented teen struggling to come to terms with life.

Eleanor Sharkey as Alan’s religiously devout mother Dora is outstanding, while the effect of the ever-present cast gives depth to the story-telling, at times through mime and at others through haunting sound effects.

The metal-framed horses‘ heads and shoulders are striking and surprisingly realistic.

Equus is on at Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday.