From the moment this production of Equus begins, it succeeds in engulfing its audience into the world it creates. Peter Shaffer’s text returns to the London stage in a co-production between Theatre Royal Stratford East and the English Touring Theatre and it’s a production that delivers on every level. It conjures up disturbing imagery in its staging choices that echo the characters feelings, as well as pay detailed attention to every movement made by the actors. This all results in creating a world that both fascinates and repels its audience for all the right reasons.
This production, directed by Ned Bennett, creates a haunting world that vividly illustrates the inner disturbances felt by Alan Strang (played by Ethan Kai). This atmosphere is in large part made possible through Jessica Hung Han Yun’s effective lighting design. Flashes of light pepper the show in different colours. However, they are done so quickly they either startle the audience or leave them questioning if there is indeed a flash or if it is all in their heads. This type of questioning purposefully echoes Alan Strang’s thoughts presented in the show.
Ethan Kai’s portrayal of Alan Strang is on point. He brilliantly oscillates between feelings of violence, vulnerability, fear and despair, moving between each emotion with as much ease as a juggler might have spinning too many plates to keep count of.
The force of this production lies with Shelley Maxwell’s stunning movement direction of the horses. Although the costume design is simple and does not particularly reference an equine nature, the actors playing the horses are completely believable in these roles. Ira Mandela Siobhan’s transformation into the horse called Nugget is mesmerising. The precision with which he transforms his body by twitching each muscle carefully into place to become the animal can only be admired.
Finally, Keith Gilmore’s performance playing triple roles of Harry Dalton, the Nurse and Horse is also worth seeing. Gilmore is a joy to watch as no character he portrays seems to be beyond his reach. He jumps between each of his attributed roles, making them come to life with individual mannerisms that make them very vibrant. He holds his audiences’ attention carefully, leading them to sit on the edge of their seats expectantly awaiting his next characterisation.
Bennett’s production of Equus is stunning, haunting and bewitching all at the same time. Although only a few actors and creatives are mentioned here, they all succeed in creating this beautiful piece that is well worth seeing. I’d personally only recommend seeing it once though, as the images it conjures seem to remain in my mind haunting me days after seeing the performance. 5/5
Review written by Elizabeth Leemann.
Equus is currently showing until Saturday 23rd March 2019 at Theatre Royal Stratford East. To find out more about the production, visit here…
Equus is currently on UK tour until Saturday 11th May 2019, to find out more about the tour, visit here…