Equus

Equus Production Photos ©The Other Richard

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Back in 1973 Equus premiered to huge commercial and critical success, and thus a modern classic was born. Back then the story of a teenage boy with a troubled mind shocked, captivated and enthralled and here in 2019 it still manages to do so and more.

Psychiatrist, Martin Dysart (Zubin Varla) is charged with finding out why a stable boy, Alan Stang (Ethan Kai) would commit the repugnant act of blinding six horses with a spike.

What follows is journey into the fragile mind of a young man who is confused by an overbearing father (Robert Fitch) and devoutly religious mother (Syeeta Kumar). Their bruised, repressed relationship with each other, seeps into the soul of their son with devastating consequences.

Equus Production Photos ©The Other Richard

Dysart uses a great many tricks and techniques to discover the root of Stang’s illness and builds a strong relationship with the boy but at what cost? For Dysart has his own demons to concquer: trapped in a loveless marriage and constantly questioning his chosen profession. Can Dysart get to the bottom of what happened that horrific night in the stable, and if so at what personal cost to him?

Director Ned Bennett has done an outstanding job creating an intense, intimate psychological drama, that focuses on the reasons why, rather than the act itself. The two leads are exceptional: Varla shows the frailty of Dysart, smoking constantly, somewhat nervous, his interactions with Stang flip the doctor/patient dynamic on its head. He plays the world-weary shrink with humanity and warmth whilst still unsure of his place in the world.

Equus Production Photos ©The Other Richard

Ethan Kai is equally impressive turning a brave, physical performance filled with nervous energy, anger and fragility. The interactions between the two are leads are what anchors the productions. They are supported by a fantastic cast who have dual roles as humans and horses, it sounds ridiculous but under Bennett’s direction is effective and with clear use of lighting and stage design works fantastically well. The cast should be commended for their hard work and dedication to the craft.

This is visceral, unsettling look at mental health and raises some interesting points about it’s treatment and the ethics that go into getting the results, add into the mix a superb cast and a creative production team at the top of there game, and you get a powerful, brutal piece of theatre that looks fantastic and pulls no punches.

Equus is on at the Lowry until Saturday 27th April tickets available here.

 

 

 

The Weir

Weir

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester’s revival of Conor McPherson’s Olivier award-winning play The Weir arrives at the Lowry’s Quays theatre this week, proving it is as fresh and as engaging as it was when it took the west-end by storm back in 1997.

Set in a rural in a rural Irish pub, vastly unvisited out of tourist season apart from by its entirely male regulars, conversations are familiar amongst Brendan (Sam O’Mahony) the happy-go-lucky landlord and middle aged locals cantankerous Jack (Sean Murray) and mild mannered Jim (John O’Dowd), both bachelors with their own crosses to bear. Tonight however something is different, Finbar (Louis Dempsey) the local fella turned successful businessman has been seen with a woman, not only has he been seen with a woman but he has been bold enough to bring her to the pub, and him a married man and all, changing the landscape of the status quo from the minute she arrives.

Weir 3 The Weir is a play based entirely round the art of storytelling in which writer Conor McPherson delivers the loneliness of small-town life in Ireland for his isolated characters with humanity and heart. Past and present intertwine as stories are shared and the ghosts of times gone by are reimagined and redelivered. Links to folklore litter the narratives as incidents and goings on become more peculiar and harder to explain, lives woven together by circumstance bonded over many years through the sharing of tales and the comfort of company now have a new source of narrative in the intriguing and attractive out of towner, Valerie (Natalie Radmall-Quirke).

The regaling of stories to entertain their visitor ultimately exposes their anxieties and loneliness, when finally it’s Valerie’s turn to share her chilling tale, unexpected and deeply powerful, the truth she calmly reveals bonds her to the group, comrades now in their complexities.

Weir 2 At approximately 90 minutes straight through The Weir captivates entirely, each actor on stage delivering a compelling and gripping performance, from the deadpan put downs to the infectious Irish charm. Director Adele Thomas is happily includes awkward silences, a taste of the daily norm in The Weir. While there is great poignancy there is also great wit in McPherson’s script, presented with impressive skill by this incredibly strong cast.

Just as important as the storytelling is the listening, director Adele Thomas ensures that each storyteller is the focus of their moment with fellow cast members their audience, perfectly placed around Madeline Girling’s set, while Lee Curran’s lighting design further adds depth, atmosphere and weight to each tale.

The Weir is a cleverly constructed and entirely compelling piece of theatre, goosebump chilling in parts with laugh out loud moments of deliciously sharp humour. Perfectly paced with an excellent cast and exceptional writing which will leave you longing to pull up a chair, grab a Guinness and revel in the delights of the storytellers.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 27th January tickets available here.