A maze of Jungian theory and Freudian nightmares, the heart of Peter Shaffer’s play is dark and disturbing, a twisted subversion of religious and sexual oneness. Shaffer’s play needs to be approached with sensitivity, as it could be all too easy for the harrowing madness of the drama to take centre stage. However, Director Emily Aboud and her cast should be hugely applauded for what was a powerful performance that successfully conjured up such frenzied terror whilst carefully balancing it with a profound appreciation and exploration of human fragility and vulnerability.
Lighting and sound delicately added to this harmony. Greeted by the haunting and chilling sounds of Mozart’s Requiem, the Latin chants foreshadowed the religious ecstasy to come. As the lights dimmed, the electric blue glow cast an eerie and unnerving shadow over the room.
Charley Cotton’s performance as Martin Dysart, the existential psychiatrist rallying against his provincial life, was truly outstanding. Cotton’s self-questioning and existential monologues were narrated flawlessly, and his fluid manner grimly and yet humorously delivered a painful diagnosis on what it is to live a life without passion.
Douglas Clark is to be commended for his superb performance of the highly disturbed yet vulnerable Alan Strang. Religious fanaticism is joined with sexual desire to show not just madness, but a young man tortured and inflicted with pain. The question of whether Strang is victim or villain is kept at the forefront with the constant presence of his parents on stage. Francesca Knope gave a moving performance as Strang’s mother, her anguish and upset real and heart-rending.
The relationship between doctor and patient achieved a magnificent crescendo in the climax of the play. The frightening blood red lights of the horses’ eyes created a visual feast of madness as Strang’s religious adoration of Equus reached a sexual frenzy.
A tense and profound performance, beautifully executed, Emily Aboud’s Equus is a haunting success.