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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Monday, March 08, 2010

Equus theatre review

Published in The Guardian

Equus
Dundee Rep
3 out of 5

The director who brought Beauty and the Beast and The Elephant Man to Dundee continues her examination of the animalistic outsider with Peter Shaffer's study of the violent power of sublimated sexual desire. In this stripped-back Equus, Jemima Levick puts the story of Alan Strang and his devotional love of horses under laboratory conditions to reveal a tense drama of personal discovery. Although the argument about the uses of psychiatry seems dated, and the boy's motivation not entirely convincing, the play still drives home with the immediacy of a whodunit.

Most striking for anyone familiar with the recent Daniel Radcliffe/Alfie Allen revival is the staging. Alex Lowde's set reconfigures the space into a theatre in the round, the non-performing actors joining the audience on four sides of the clinically white stage like jurors sitting in judgment. Free of naturalistic garb, the characters come under our closest scrutiny as they stand exposed beneath the strip lights. Our task is less to be swept away by the story than to evaluate the claims of a mother whose religion is merciless, a father whose socialism is ungenerous, a psychiatrist whose private life is dysfunctional and a criminal whose motives are devout.

In the lead role as the boy guilty of terrible animal cruelty, Duncan Anderson clenches his fists on the bottom of his hoody as he makes the painstaking journey from blank-eyed aggression to fearful revelation. We are touched by his vulnerability. He is egged on by Robert Paterson's Dr Dysart, a dishevelled underachiever with a now familiar hang-up about his profession's purpose. They underplay the clash of brain and brawn, but, in their therapeutic ritual, they summon up the rippling muscularity of four bare-chested dancers in horse heads, who evoke the kind of passions that cannot be pinned down even by the most antiseptic of laboratories.

Until 20 March. Box office: 01382 223530.

© Mark Fisher

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