Crawford Sandton Drama student Lara Dworetzky watched Equus at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino, and wrote up her thoughts for TheatreZA. Read what she had to say here!
On the 4th of May, I took a trip to the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino to watch Fred Abrahamse bring Peter Shaffer’s powerful and brilliant play Equus to life.
It begins with Dr. Dysart (Graham Hopkins) whose monologue about the very peculiar case of Alan Strang (Sven Ruygrok) gripped the audience from the outset. During this opening, Strang can be seen embracing Nugget the horse endearingly while cold light shines on them from above. The story begins to unravel in a flurry of flashbacks that are acted out meticulously. Dr Dysart’s Grecian-inspired dream is beautifully choreographed with an appropriate soundtrack that created an accurate picture in conjunction with the costuming. The grim lighting accentuated the focus of the dream and helped create the correct mood and atmosphere for the audience.
The acting is mainly what turns the play into a spectacular performance. These strong-minded characters are not easy to portray, and I was delighted to see how the actors would interpret their characters’ unique quirks. Ruygrok’s unbelievable performance as a teenage boy becomes more and more engrossing and immersed as the play goes on, as he fully loses himself in the moody confusion of the character. His inflection and body language show his deeper understanding of Strang, which leaves the audience hanging on his every movement and word. Hopkins seems born to play the character of Dr Dysart. He is well-spoken and as professional as any psychiatrist which made me believe Dysart even more. Hopkins drives the play and guides the audience into the different situations of Strang’s life, displaying the struggle between his desire to make a real difference, and his worry that his remedies to his patients’ mental strife is a temporary fix with skill and a deft touch. The supporting cast is similarly fantastic, with magnificent turns from Monique Basson, Len-Barry Simons, Maggie Gericke, Andrew Roux, Marc Goldberg, and Cassandra Tendai-Mapanda.
What I find emphasized the plot – and more specifically, Strang’s personal turmoil – was Charl-Johan Lingenfelder’s diverse soundtrack that fit in with each flashback. The tense music for certain scenes left the audience on the edge of their seats and helped them associate the horses with mystery and secrecy. Moreover, the lighting was as perfect as one can imagine. The powerful scene where Strang takes a midnight ride on Nugget is created superbly with blinding, white lights shining directly at the audience while outlining Strang’s sense of euphoria during this moment. The climax of the play is drowned in red light signifying Strang’s mixed emotions ranging from anger to passion. The lighting is remarkably designed for every word and emotion. Marcel Meyer’s role as designer was only enhanced by Marc Goldberg’s phenomenal movement and choreography, effectively transforming the masked actors into horses so believable that only the sudden reappearance of arms could momentarily disturb the illusion.
To conclude, Equus is a must-see and the overall experience of the cast, set, music, and lighting at Montecasino is eye-opening! I highly recommend this play to everyone.