In Equus, psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Griffiths) tries to solve the problem of why a quiet 17-year-old with a routine life and loving family would suddenly blind six horses with a hoof pick. What drove Alan Strang (Radcliffe) to such an act of violence? Shaffer’s play was originally presented by the National Theatre at the Old Vic in 1973, directed by John Dexter, and starring Alec McCowen as the psychiatrist and Peter Firth as the patient.
While Griffiths is a stage veteran – who won myriad Best Actor prizes for his last role in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys - Equus marks the stage debut for Radcliffe, known around the globe as the precocious wizard from the Harry Potter film series, in which Griffiths plays his vile uncle. The cast also features Will Kemp, Jenny Agutter, Gabrielle Ready, Jonathan Cullen and newcomer Joanna Christie.
Equus is directed by Thea Sharrock - outgoing artistic director of west London’s Gate Theatre, who previously directed Griffiths in the West End in Heroes - and designed by the play’s original designer John Napier, who was lured out of semi-retirement for the revival.
Overnight critics were impressed with Radcliffe who successfully managed to “throw off the mantle” of Harry Potter and prove his mettle as a stage actor. They also applauded Radcliffe’s ability to overcome the hype surrounding the play’s much-publicised nude scene, which he played bravely and completely in character. However, some critics were not quite so convinced that Radcliffe had the emotional range to capture every aspect of the troubled teenager, and while some were not too fond of Shaffer’s play itself, many praised Sharrock’s production for its evocative atmosphere and emotional impact.
- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock