Sunday, September 28, 2014


Written by Peter Shaffer
Directed by barb barnett
Canberra Rep at Theatre 3
26 September to 11 October, 2014

Review by Len Power

Peter Shaffer’s ‘Equus’ was one of the most memorable and popular plays of the 1970s.  It details a harrowing investigation of a horrendous crime by a psychiatrist with serious self-doubts of his own.

This production by barb barnett lacked pace and energy on opening night.  Performances were uneven, in several cases lacking depth and needing more vocal projection.  Only at the end, in the long psychiatric re-enactment of the crime, did the production display the level of intensity required to draw audiences in, mainly due to the performances of Jerry Hearn as the psychiatrist and Benjamin Hardy as the youth.

An important element of a production of ‘Equus’ is the way the horses are depicted. The masks designed by S.E. O’Brien were excellent but the device lost a lot of its power with the actors often just holding the horse heads rather than wearing them.  There was no sense of the youth’s perception of the horses as awesome God-like creatures.  A key scene set on a beach where the youth first encounters a horse was awkwardly staged.

Although set in the present, the play is showing its age, especially in the scene set in a cinema showing a Danish soft core movie.  The relationship of the parents and the troubled youth seem more 1970s than today as well.

Nevertheless, ‘Equus’ is still a play with a lot of power to intrigue and disturb audiences.

Originally published in Canberra City News digital edition 27 September 2014