BWW Review: EQUUS, Theatre Royal Stratford East
A piece that could easily feel outdated is anything but as Ned Bennett's production of Peter Shaffer's Equus blasts onto the Stratford stage, before going off on tour with English Touring Theatre. A twisted story of a boy's love for horses, the play asks questions of power, control and the human soul.
When it's revealed that Alan Strang has blinded seven horses, he's sent to Martin Dysart for immediate medical assessment. His parents are at their wits end, unable to cope and at first in denial about their son's illness. Alan will be the psychiatrist's most complicated case yet, but the boy, his upbringing and past emotional experiences fascinate the medical professional.
Zubin Varla gives the most tremendous performance as only a seasoned professional can. He is measured throughout, commanding the audience's attention right from the first minute. In this role you need someone that can master text, which he does, and then some.
The relationship between the two of them is sweet, but it's nothing like the bond between Alan and the horses, in particular Nugget (Ira Mandela Siobhan). He has the animal's physicality down to a T and moves beautifully throughout the performance. His ability to contort his body and isolate individual muscles to move is so impressive to watch.
Everything about the creative vision works. Bennett's direction is as precise and playful as you'd expect, Giles Thomas' sound unnerves you in your seat, and Jessica Hung Han Yun's lighting is exceptional - you could even go as far to say that it's some of the best use of stage lighting I've ever seen.
This really is great theatre, and something that should be seen by everyone. Make sure to catch it before it disappears.
Equus at Theatre Royal Stratford East until 23 March, then continues on tour
Photo credit: The Other Richard