Since it’s first performance at the National Theatre in London in 1973, where it ran for almost 3 years, the critics and serious theatre goers have been unanimous in their praise for Peter Shaffer’s EQUUS.

Some 46 years later, at the other end of the world the same still holds true. A brilliant piece of theatre remains a brilliant piece of theatre.

Read below what the Cape Town press are saying:

THE WEEKEND SPECIAL

Equus review

KAREN RUTTER reviews

Despite a multi-person cast, Equus is very much a two-hander in terms of the intensity between its central protagonists. The script features a dynamic energy between the duo onstage, demanding absolute immersion from each actor. It’s probably fair to say that if one of them is weak, the whole play will suffer.

Which is one reason, of many, why this 2019 production of Equus is superb. The casting of Graham Hopkins as the consummate but conflicted Dr. Dysart, and Sven Ruygrok as his troubled patient Alan Strang, is outstanding. Both bring to their roles a plausible vulnerability that is thought-provoking and moving. As respective representatives of a (supposedly) sane medical system and an insane home-grown religion, the journey each person takes to the play’s chilling conclusion sees beliefs strengthen and falter, and passion flare and stumble. Each respective actor here is masterly in his role.

A psychological thriller

Shaffer’s Equus has become a classic, a psychological thriller based on a true event which brings into question issues of faith and worship, an intellectualism framed within an erotic, muscular narrative. Written in 1973, it was inspired by the case of a 17-year-old boy who blinded six horses in a stable near Suffolk. Shaffer’s treatment sees the teenager brought to an eminent child psychiatrist to try and work out why he did it. In the play, we meet the magistrate who seeks treatment for the boy, we meet his parents, and later on, a young girl who is attracted to him. The story is largely told either through the psychiatrist Dr. Dysart’s experiences, or the fevered dreams and recollections of Alan Strang. At its heart, it is a tale pitting dry, dusty but acceptable norms against sweaty, passionate but unacceptable beliefs. It’s about swapping a stallion for a scooter.

Equus review

Hopkins is startling in his eloquent, world-weary portrayal of a man who increasingly questions his role in “normalising” patients at the cost of their humanity. Opposite him, Ruygrok’s Strang is a curious mixture of hurt and heat, confusion and clear-cut obsession. Again, a mesmerising performance.

Horses steal the show

The rest of the cast are all engaging, notably Maggie Gericke as Dora Strang, Alan’s religious mother, Andrew Roux as Frank his atheist Dad, and Cassandra-Tendai Mapanda as a convincing magistrate.

The design, by Marcel Meyer, is simple but very effective, with six stable doors providing a somewhat haunting backdrop. And then the horses – particularly Nugget (Len-Barry Simons) – drawing the eye, combining a lithe grace and Marc Goldberg’s stylish choreography with minimalist costume touches (head and hooves) to utterly convince and captivate.

Take a bow, director Fred Abrahamse and team – this is a fresh, poignant, startling and chilling production. It’s really, really worth going to see.

DIE BURGER

VOLPUNTE VIR GALOP VAN PASSIE IN ‘EQUUS’

Woorde kan skaars Peter Shaffer se Equus op emosionele en intelligente vlak vaspen. Daar moet diep gekyk, raakgesien en selfondersoek gedoen word. Mariana malan ken vyf sterre aan die produksie toe.

Wat begin as ‘n raaisel vir die gehoor en die sielkundige Martin Dysart (Graham Hopkins), neem hom op ‘n onstellende en insiggewende reis deur die hart en siel van sy jong pasient Alan Strang (Sven Ruygrok). In die proses ontdek Dysart ewe veel van homself.

Hoekom het Alan ses perded verblind? Dysart moet uitvind en dan probeer om die 17-jarige te behandel sodat hy “normaal” kan hus toe gaan. Dysart weet dat normaal dikwels vervelig en vaal staan teenoor iemand wat met passie leef.

Dis amper ‘n onbegonne taak om die verskillended lae van denke en gebeure in die stuk in ‘n paar sinne saam te trek. Dis eenvoudig te verweef  en elkeen moet die legkaart vir homself inmekaarpas.

Die gehoor moet bereid wees om anders oor dinge te dink en selfs die ondenkbare te verstaan. Geloof, vaste oortuigings oor ouerskap, eerlikheid, seks, gewete, normaliteid passie en vele ander aspekte van menswees kom onder die loep.

Die gehoor moet bereid wees om anders oor dinge te dink en selfs die ondenkbare te verstaan. Geloof, vaste oortuigings oor ouerskap, eerlikheid, seks, gewete, normaliteid passie en vele ander aspekte van menswees kom onder die loep.

Sielkundige en pasient daag mekaar genadeloos uit. Hopkins en Ruygrok laat jou gou geen oomblik ontspan nie. Jy is saam met hulle sweefstokartieste sonder ‘n vangnet.

In sy monoloe deurspek met ironie, humor en selfontleding is Hopkins ontstuitbaar, en Ruygrok se vertolking is ‘n kragtoer.

Sensualiteit is ‘n seutelwoord in die gebeure. Daar is aaraking en bewegings wat veel meer se as wat naaktheid ooit sal kan se.

Dit vra wel ‘n oomblik van gestroop staan vir Alan om te besef dat sy god jaloers is.

Daar is verskeie onvergeetlike tonele. Alan se eerste kennismaking met ‘n perd wat asof uit die niet verskuin met ‘n beeldskone ruiter, gaan jou bybly.

Dan is daar die perde wat betowerend beweeg n geluidloos oortuig. Marcel Meyer het homself oortref met die stel en ontwerp; Marc Goldberg kry die eer vir beweegings.

Len-Barry Simons as die perd Nugget verpersoonlik alles wat Alan in sy brose verbeelding in ‘n opperwese soek. Simons blaas siel in die dier wat nooit praat nie, maar net soveel se as enige van die karaters.

Kies aan die einde of jy bereid id om vaal te leef teenoor daardie een opwindende galop met die wind in jou hare.

CAPE ARGUS

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