Even though it is a well-known play, I had never heard about Equus, neither the play written by Peter Shaffer nor the 1977 film by Sidney Lumet. But then a bunch of friends of me told me a few months ago that they were working a new project. “It’s a drama about horses and much more,” one of them told me, without wanting to reveal too many details.
My friends are actors at Arrabal-Teatro, an amateur company that has been around since 1989. They often produce interesting and innovative shows. I’ve collaborated with them as a musician several times. In fact, thanks to them, my list of visited countries has increased quite a lot, as we’ve presented plays in Belgium, Italy, Canada and South Korea. I love that, for the director Jose Luis Prieto, live music is really important in his performances.
The local radio announced that the event was not recommended for anyone under 16 years. The word on the street was that the show lasted more than 2 and a half hours, and that there were parts of nudity. It’s something that nowadays shouldn’t be very shocking, but nevertheless was a little surprising, maybe because it was an amateur performance by local actors, who are also members of the community.
The weekend of the premiere, there were several activities in Requena and we didn’t know which of them we should attend and which we should skip. Almost at the same time as the play, the band of some friends was playing their last gig ever in a pub. Having so many talented friends sometimes makes for a complicated dilemma.
In the end, we decided to go to see Equus. The story is about Alan Strang, a teenager who works in a barn. He feels a strong sexual attraction to horses and is treated by Dr. Martin Dysart, a psychiatrist who wants to know the reason why Alan has acted in extreme and violent ways toward several horses.
Sexual repression, religious feelings, prejudices, and the hypocrisy of society are some of the issues the audience encounters in this play, a show that explores the constraints that determine human nature.
Peter Shaffer was inspired by real life. He read a piece of news about a boy who blinded some horses and created a fictitious play, developing how the story might have been, without knowing any details of the crime.
To be honest, before the start of the performance, I was a bit doubtful that I could stay awake an entire three hours, especially after dinner (I often fall asleep easily). But I couldn’t have been more wrong, because in the break in between the two acts I was completely absorbed in what had been happening on stage.
In the second act, the rumors proved true and there were some scenes with nudity, something that still amazes some people, and we heard a gasp from someone in the audience when one of those scenes happened. But the important thing was that the performance was dynamic and the work of actresses and actors was terrific. I highly recommend the show if you have the opportunity to see it.