Literature

Equus

Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe starring in Equus, a play by Peter Shaffer written in 1973, telling the story of a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man who has a pathological religious fascination with horses. | Daniel Radcliffe, Equus, Harry Potter, Naked,

Not Just About People Getting Naked

Whenever I mention Equus to people, they always say, "Oh, that's the show Daniel Radcliff got naked in, right?" To which I reply, "Yeah. It's a great play, actually."

The truth is, Peter Shaffer's Equus is an amazing play play; and not because we get to see people naked in it. It chronicles the story of one Alan Strang, who one night stabbed out the eyes of six horses at a stable where he worked. At the beginning of the play, there is no question as to whether or not he actually did it: it is a given. The question, rather, is why he did it; and that is exactly what we find out over the course of the narrative. The answer is at the same time disturbing and fascinating; and, as with most good plays, I had real trouble getting it out of my head for weeks afterwards. The other day, for instance, I was walking in the park with my family and we came across one of those carriage horses clopping along docilely by the side of the road. Even though this particular horse had nothing to do with the play, the first thing I thought of was one of Alan's lines. It startled me, to say the least, and it also speaks to how powerful this story actually is. Not only is it beautifully written, but it also has many beautiful challenges for actors.

Alan of course is the play's (main) male lead, and he is the character who most actors would absolutely love to play. He is meaty and fascinating; and these qualities go beyond the main crux of the narrative. Why, for example, does he answer his psychiatrist, Dystart's, opening questions with jingles from commercials? Why not just stay silent? Why exactly does he finally decide to speak? Dystart also offers really interesting questions; as do the rest of the characters in the play. Even the more "minor" ones have fascinating behavior for enterprising actors to sink their teeth into; and the issues the play raises about life and passion are also really interesting.

Guys, read Equus. Its appeal goes far beyond seeing people naked onstage, though for some reason that always is a big draw for audiences. Peter Shaffer provides actors and audiences alike with an amazing play to read, act in, or see. Whichever one you choose, the story is equally rewarding. It might stick in your head, it might give you nightmares, it might make you turn right back to the first page when you finish and read it all over again. Whatever it does to you, it will affect you in some way or ther; and that's the most wonderful thing plays can ever do.

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Updated May 6, 2017 6:00 AM EDT | More details

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