“Equus is a compelling, intense drama that takes us to the very depths of the human psyche”
From the get-go, the audience was drawn in by the captivating performance of Ben Lewis as Doctor Dysart, who jumps between chilling narrative monologues and intimate conversations throughout. Lewis had a complete control over the stage, taking care to decorate every word with whatever intrigue, desperation or distress the scene required, be it in moments of subtle discomfort or full emotional outburst. With him was Horatio Hollaway as Alan Strang, who portrayed Alan’s discontentment with a great balance of sensitivity and frantic energy. Horatio’s body language and vocal range also spanned from quiet to bold throughout the play, and every considered action and the delivery of line was expertly used to compile a fascinatingly nuanced performance.
Accompanying them were a flawless cast of characters. There was Alex Edwards who took command of the upright horse rider and bitter Harry Dalton, Ned Freij who masterfully portrayed Alan’s angry, emotionally unavailable father Frank, Priyanka Bagal who skilfully dove between moments of care and cold, defensive rage as Alan’s mother Dora, Lucy O’Callaghan who thoroughly impressed as the quick-witted, intelligent Hesther (the program says she was an understudy but I wouldn’t have guessed) and Dinah Patt who stole the stage as the intrigued and mischievous Jill.
Of course, the story wouldn’t be complete without the Horse God itself. Felicity Rickard’s graceful physical acting coupled with costume designer Carrie Cheung’s intricate wire horse head had the audience totally convinced we were either viewing a menacing equine deity or a frightened, shaken horse.
If I was forced to find one explosive ingredient in common with all these stunning performances, it would be the chemistry between the characters. There was onstage chemistry everywhere: the conflict and growing relationship between Dysart and Alan in their sessions, the intellectual companionship between Dysart and Hesther, the romantic chemistry between Alan and Jill and the difficult relationships between the three members of the Strang family. This took the audience from feeling like they were in a room with great actors to feeling like we’d crashed right into the office itself, and the heads and hearts of each role in turn.
Equus’s staging and tech were highly effective too, using a range of harsh and warm lighting, minimalistic yet effective use of props and costumes and up-close, angled seating to transform Allington House into Dysart’s office and land us in his and Alan’s stories. Production and Assistant Managers Aaron Lo and India Flavell should be recognised for facilitating this.
Final credit must be given to the director Emily Lipscombe, not only for excellently filling in as the nurse, but for co-ordinating a production that thoroughly navigated the souls of its characters, bringing out the best in the show’s actors, immersing us with its up-close staging and racing our emotions with inventive choreography and heart-racing percussion. Appraisal must also be given to Producer Joyanne Chan and Assistant Producer June Yang for aiding Emily in what must have been a mammoth of a task.
Overall Equus is a deeply thought-provoking and moving journey through the psyche of an assortment of well-realised characters and their journeys. Every member of its team was an essential part in producing a masterful piece of student theatre. Nothing less than Horse-some (sorry, I couldn’t resist!).
By Harry Threapleton
Photo Credits: Pitch Productions