EQUUS (review)

Equus_Scott Middleton_by Chris Baldock

Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Peter Shaffer’s 1973 play Equus, critics and audiences alike were universal in its praise upon its release.

Shaffer was inspired to write Equus by the chance remark of a colleague who recounted a news story of a troubled youth who blinded a number of horses in a stable, seemingly without cause.

The play also emerged at a time when Britain was experiencing much soul-searching about identity and hardship, against a backdrop of immense upheaval in world events.

Alan Strang (Scott Middleton) is a disturbed youth whose obsession with horses leads him to commit an unspeakable act of violence. Drawn into the conflict between two notions of right, Psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Jeremy Kewley) struggles to comprehend the motivation behind Alan’s brutal act, questioning his own purpose and indeed his sanity.

Director Chris Baldock delivers a wonderful production that respects the historical context of the era and integrity of Shaffer’s text.

From the outset, this mid-week audience was engaged. From the ritualistic adornment of the equine masks to the heart-wrenching final moments devoid of hope and passion, Baldock and his cast were not afraid to pull the stops out.

Middleton and Kewley are outstanding as the psychological combatants. We feel the pain and confusion of a youth on the verge of sexual awakening, while sympathising with the older protagonist’s dilemma of ethical ambiguity.

Other notable performances include Amanda McKay and Soren Jensen as Alan’s mother and father respectively, and Maggie Chretien as the sprightly Jill Mason. The equine Greek chorus also deserves a mention. As sentinels, their physicality was second to none.

Baldock’s rustic temple-like stable set was simply effective. The open space allowed the action to flow unhindered, enhanced by Jason Bovaird’s atmospheric lighting. Natasha Moszenin’s soundscape elicited menacing moods of the era.

Theatre should be about taking risks and Equus succeeds on all levels. Mockingbird Theatre has delivered a top notch independent production that is raw and gritty, and not afraid to confront. Tickets are selling fast!

Director: Chris Baldock  Cast: Jeremy Kewley, Scott Middleton, Maggie Chretien, Soren Jensen, Amanda McKay, Sally Tatterson, Elijah Egan, Damien Harrison, Tom Kay, Tilly Legge, Lauren O’Callaghan, Dylan Watson

Brunswick Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre
Cnr Glenlyon and Sydney Roads, Brunswick
Performance: Tuesday 6 August 2013 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 17 August 2013
Bookings: www.mockingbirdtheatre.com.au

For more information, visit: www.mockingbirdtheatre.com.au for details.

Review: by Rohan Shearn  Image: by Chris Baldock