THEATRE REVIEW: Equus, Connaught Theatre, Worthing

DISTURBING, challenging and shocking – Equus is all of these and more.

More recently famous for being the play in which “Harry Potter” gets naked, it nevertheless seemed to surprise some at the Connaught Theatre on Thursday that a man and woman were both actually taking all their clothes off.

But the nudity is not really the most shocking element. The story of 17-year-old Alan Strang and the reason he took up a metal spike and used it to blind six horses brings so many questions on so many levels, it surely must make everyone think about their own state of mind.

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Director Michael Cabot has finally realised his long-held dream of staging Equus. In doing so, he has been able to very much put his own stamp on it, casting aside the very detailed stage directions given by author Peter Shaffer and instead work with the 2007 West End production and pretty much a blank canvas.

The result is a more modern version that retains the need for closely-observed equine movements while giving the designer more freedom. Kerry Bradley’s set features six horse heads and the way they stare out at the audience for the entire play, I felt, added to the intensity of the drama.

The decision was also made to have all the cast on stage at once, sitting watching the action, which enabled a quick turn around of scenes and worked very effectively.

This is a story not just about teenage trauma but also the effect on the psychologist trying to work with him and Malcolm James’ portrayal of Martin was faultless.

The play is designed to open up questions about terrible crimes and why they happen, not instantly revile without looking at the underlying reasons. This version achieves that without offering judgment or taking sides.

Equus runs at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, until Saturday, October 1, at 7.30pm daily with a Saturday matinée at 2.30pm.

By Elaine Hammond.