' I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.'


THEATRE: EQUUS, 2013 ~ Review

Equus proves to be a one-horse race

Tip Top Productions’ five-night performance (5th-9th March, 2013) of Peter Shaffer’s classic play Equus, led by innovative guest director John Young at the Forum Theatre Chester,  goes to show that though Shaffer claimed ‘life is only comprehensible through a thousand local gods’, all you actually seem to need is a handful of local talent.

          The play focuses on psychiatrist Martin Dysart as he deals with Alan Strang, a reserved seventeen year-old who has committed a horrible and seemingly senseless act of violence against several horses. As treatment progresses and Alan’s motives and desires unfold, Dysart starts to find himself questioning his own inhibitions…

The production opens with a silent, bare-chested figure slowly entering into view to place nothing but a mask upon his head in order to portray the fundamental essence of a horse. This, in many ways, epitomises the nature of Young’s interpretation of the play as a whole: stripped back to its raw and most potent elements. Subtly reminiscent of the archetypal masks of Greek Theatre, the abstract simplicity of the headgear’s design echoes the drawing style of Jean Cocteau, renowned for his obsession with the myths of Classical Greece - myths that, like Shaffer’s play, lay bare the truths of the human psyche.

The set does much to channel the themes of the play: a raised wooden dais to evoke the idea of a stable and reiterate the significance and authority of Shaffer’s curious horse god, Equus, the embodiment of worship, forever stamping his hoof to make himself known; an arch framed on either side by bars, through which audience and actors alike enter and exit the venue, to evoke horse stalls and allude to the playwright’s notions of freedom versus imprisonment through society’s accepted norms.

Versatile and carefully employed lighting brings great depth to the piece. At one moment, it offers a subdued fragility to the sex scene (and ensures the nakedness of the actors is tastefully done, without taking away from the strikingness of the image); the next, it imbues the confrontation between Alan and Equus with real menace as a hellish red glare cast up from below merges with smoke that rises suddenly to circle about the actors.

Local thoroughbreds: the cast of Tip Top Productions' Equus
                Though amateur, the actors’ performances remained mostly strong and poignant throughout, and the choreography was always captivating and effective, particularly with its clever use of different levels and heights to tackle the venue’s limited space and ensure the piece is visually stimulating even when the actors aren’t moving.

A bold and thoroughly thought-provoking production, it promises great things from director Young in the near future.


  1. I loved reading this review, the whole way through I was going :O :D :O beautiful! XX


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