Equus has no equal

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A play that won Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe critical acclaim is heading to Durham to open a national tour. Katy Wheeler caught up with director Michael Cabot to discuss the play’s controversial subject matter.

AS plays go, they don’t get much more intriguing than Equus.

It tells the story of child psychiatrist Martin Dysart, who is given the task of treating a disturbed 17-year-old.

Dysart must gain the trust of young Alan Strang to discover what prompted a violent attack in which six horses were blinded.

Inspired by a true story, Peter Shaffer’s play was originally staged in 1973 at London’s Royal National Theatre.

In 1977, a film adaptation was released starring Richard Burton and Peter Firth and in 2007, it was revived in the West End starring Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths.

Harry Potter actor Daniel’s performance in the play brought it once again to the fore and tickets are selling well for a 12-week national tour by London Classic Theatre, which starts tonight at Durham Gala Theatre.

Director Michael Cabot said he relished the opportunity to work on the production.

“I’ve wanted to do this play for years,” he explained. “I first saw it back in the 90s as a very good fringe production.

“Usually I go to plays as an audience member and not with my director’s hat on. But as soon as it started I thought ‘I would really like to do this.’ It’s just one of those plays that sticks in your mind.”

Stick in your mind it does and the striking publicity shots of Daniel Radcliffe with a horse have become famous in recent years.

Michael, said: “It’s gone a bit quiet in the interim since Daniel Radcliffe. There’s not been many major productions.

“But Daniel being in the role was the biggest possible way of introducing the play to a new audience and our production has been selling very well.

“Daniel Radcliffe’s influence should not be underestimated. He was brave to take on that role when he did. And even now during Harry Potter interviews, Equus is mentioned and they bring up the picture of him with the horse. It’s brought the play on to people’s radars.”

The play will run until Saturday at the Walkergate venue before touring the rest of the country, featuring Malcolm James as Dysart and Matthew Pattimore as Strang.

Michael said: “Audiences can expect a really extraordinary play and what I hope will be an extraordinary piece of theatre.

“It’s not so much a ‘who done it’ as a ‘why done it.’

“Because of the type of play it is the decisions you make are that much bigger, from how you stage it to how you publicise it. The show is controversial because it is the most extreme of things. It’s an extreme crime in extreme circumstances.”

After weeks of rehearsals and honing their roles, Michael says the cast are looking forward to playing before an audience.

He said: “Once you start to see the set taking shape and performing under the lights, it makes it all the more real. There’s always a degree of nerves on opening night, but it’s good, it keeps you on top of your game.

“We as a company don’t work with stars, we always look for really good actors who are the best people for the job. We’ve been blessed with a fantastic cast who are great character actors. Some play horses too, which requires a lot of physical acting.”

l Performances will take place at 7.30pm on all three dates with an additional matinee at 2pm on Saturday.

Tickets are priced at £13 or £12 for concessions and £11 for the matinee.

To book, visit the Gala Theatre box office, call 332 4041 or log on to www.galadurham.co.uk

l To read a review of the show see Wednesday’s Going Out page.