Jonah Hauer-King was nothing short of breathtaking as Alan StrangJohannes Hjorth

Quite apart from the controversy and infamy surrounding its use of violence and nudity, the plot and writing of Equus are almost reason enough to make this play unmissable. In this production, the uniformly high quality of acting and staging ensure it is a must-see performance.

Both horse-mutilator Alan Strang (Jonah Hauer-King) and wavering psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Ben Walsh) are difficult characters requiring a great deal of versatility and emotional range; both actors embodied their roles with all the necessary skill. In calmer dialogue, Hauer-King excelled at switching adeptly between different layers of Alan’s characterisation, throwing in the occasional cheeky grin to vary the tension; but he was equally up to the difficult task of portraying Alan in his darkest moments, with both a captivating mania and an alluring brutality. Equally, Walsh’s powerful monologues, the stiffly controlled way in which he lost control, resulted in a character paradoxically almost more central and attention-grabbing than those engaged in the violence and action first-hand. So well-matched are the pair that it is impossible to decide which of the characters is the true protagonist or anti-hero.

The chorus added to the incredible artistry of the showJohannes Hjorth

Much of the strength of this production lies in its overall artistry. Sound and, especially ,lighting were used to exceptionally strong effect throughout, adding greatly to each of the key dramatic scenes — most notably in the violent climax. The intense stylisation in the costume of the chorus members and horses, and their animalistic semi-nudity throughout, provided a necessary counterfoil to the conventional outfits of the ‘human’ characters and a level of preparation for the famous nudity scene. Although the broken stone enclosure which surrounded the stage didn’t quite convince - understandably, it is very difficult to convey a sense of age and mystery through artificial reproductions - the structure of the central circle was used very effectively in a variety of ways, especially at the climax of the first half.

The concentrated physicality pervading this production, the sense of visceral and fundamental strength and even of acrobatics, perfectly complements the rather heavy psychological and theological questioning. Special mention must go Max Roberts as Nugget, Alan’s favourite horse, for his skill at creating a commanding and appropriately ambiguous on-stage central presence. The powerful (yet measured) use of the chorus throughout was backed up by a generally strong, if sometimes variable, cast of supporting characters. Pacing in the first act felt slightly off, and at times it seemed to drag on, but the drama of the second act alleviated this issue. The intensity, tension, and extreme shock-value of the final climax will surely go down as one of the highlights of the theatrical season.

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