Equus is probably best known for being the play where Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe got naked on stage in New York and London about 10 years ago. It made headlines around the world and brought Peter Shaffer’s dark drama to the forefront by giving Potter fans a rare glance at Harry’s “magic wand” up-close and personal.
So what would make a young actor like Radcliffe bare it all for 10 minutes every night? Was it the publicity? Maybe a little. Did he have this burning desire to flash people? Probably not. After watching Post Productions take on the gritty play this weekend, the answer is without a doubt the script. Shaffer somehow took a deeply emotional and dark story idea and turned it into one of the best dramatic scripts ever written. It’s a script, that when pulled off correctly, will leave audiences both enthralled, enlightened and sexually charged at the same time – and for the most part, it has nothing to do with the much over-hyped nude scene in the show – it’s all about content.
Post Productions pulled off a masterpiece this time out. They took that great script and treated it with the respect and care it needed to make it a standout for years to come. The attention to detail and the creative approach was passionate and the execution was flawless. You could feel the energy in the room as cast and crew delivered a play like none other. And when it came time for that infamous nude scene, there was almost a swagger about it – a certain cockiness that delivered a comfortable knock out from all aspects.
Scripting and nudity aside, it’s the cast that makes or breaks Equus. Without a stunning cast there is no Equus, instead we’re left something that might resemble the dreadful 1977 movie starring Peter Firth. But in this case, this cast makes Post’s Equus impeccable. Martin Ouellette is a phenomenal performer, but his take on Dr. Dysart is by far his greatest role yet and easily the most stunning performance he’s ever given. You could feel the passion as he told the story of 17-year-old Alan Strang (Nikolas Prsa) throughout the play.
The chemistry between Ouellette and Prsa was astonishing. It felt like we were witness to a real psychiatric treatment. Ouellette also had great moments with Kimberley Babb who played Dysart’s cohort Hester Salomon – their chemistry was delightful.
Prsa looked extremely disheveled at the beginning and as his treatment progressed you could feel his pain and suffering get worse and worse, with Ouellette egging him on the entire time. He also seemed comfortable enough being completely nude for more than 10 minutes with Nicole Coffman (Jill), who was also obviously comfortable in her own skin for nearly as long.
Coffman was a great counterpart to the nervous and overly heated Prsa. The nude scene is the barn had a comfort that is rare to see in such an intimate act. She was bubbly, attractive and delightful, especially during the chaos of the porn theatre scene.
A surprising standout was Michele Legere who almost stole the show as Strang’s mother Dora. It was like watching Piper Laurie as Margaret White in the 1976 version of Carrie. A tip of the hat also needs to go to Dylan MacDonald who pranced around as the horse Nugget and then eventually as Equus.
Everyone in the cast was flawless. Joey Ouellette came across like Perry White out of the 1952 Adventures of Superman TV show, Mitch Snaden was perfect as the simple stable owner Harry Dalton and Anna Rosati-Loft killed it as the disgruntled, but caring nurse.
Much of the glory needs to go to Michael Potter who had the vision of bringing Equus to Windsor – raw, uncensored and uncut. At first glance it seemed like an odd, risky and racy choice, but after the first 10 minutes, it was obvious that this script was like none other and that this play would go down in Windsor’s theatre history for its bravery, boldness and execution.
The lighting was dramatic throughout and surprisingly well-lit during the nude scene and the barnboard stage was built in a semi-circle style with all the actors remaining on stage throughout the entire show. It was as if they were there because they were in Alan’s mind the whole time. The costumes were fairly simple, but the horse heads were stunning (especially Nugget/Equus) – and the hoofs, complete with horseshoes, was a nice touch. Another nice touch was the original score written and produced by local musician Dave Nisbet.
If there was ever a time to use the words “brilliant think piece” in a review, this is it. Post’s Equus is the ultimate brilliant think piece, dripping with psychological madness, inner demons and extreme sexual tension.
We won’t get to see a play like Equus every day, especially one so perfectly executed, so take it in before it becomes a show of legend. You might even catch me there so I can take it all in one more time before it’s gone forever.
Equus continues for two more weekends (Oct. 4to 6 and 11 to 13). Individual tickets are only $25 and are available at www.postproductionswindsor.ca.