Play that took critics by storm comes to Kelowna

Equus, inspired by true events dives into violence and mystery

photo: contributed

Equus is a highly gripping dramatic tale that tells the story of a psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, played by audience favourite Casey Easton who attempts to treat Alan Strang played by Pete MacLeod who has a pathological religious fascination with horses. Dr. Dysart hopes to uncover the reason why the boy has blinded six horses in a small rural town.

Written by Peter Shaffer Equus had a three-year run on Broadway winning the Tony Award for Best Play, Best Direction as well as numerous Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Awards. The most recent revival was in 2008/2009 with Daniel Radcliffe as Alan and Richard Griffiths as Dysart.

Equus is based in part on a news story encountered by Shaffer, that involved a boy blinding multiple horses. Shaffer used this real-life incident as a springboard to explore what director, Randy Leslie, refers to as the ritualistic roots of theatre. Equus holds a unique sentimentality for Leslie, who played the role of Alan Strang when he was 21.

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“Shaffer created a world of limitless possibilities on stage. Equus poses ancient, yet essential, questions that we all face: What is our purpose? Can we ever know another person? Is there a god,” said Leslie. “I believe these questions are the reason this show has remained relevant for so long.”

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It’s a mystery in which the psychiatrist tries to uncover the reason for the heinous act. In the process, the characters come to know themselves and their role in life. The script abounds with themes of ritual sacrifice and religious fanaticism with an odd and personal mythology around horses with the godhead called Equus. By playing games and with consistent questioning, the boy’s life is laid bare. Some of it is through dreams and hypnosis and some by association with the Bible. Alan’s attraction to horses is a powerful dramatic device with him as a kind of king facing his mental enemies.

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To help prepare, the actors for understanding and playing the horses they visited Broken Rail Ranch, where they groomed the animals and studied their movements. The attention given to these roles reflects how vital the horses are to the emotional core of the play.

The horse masks are truly works of art created by Ryan Oake with a soundscape created by Randy Leslie and Jordan Leboe.

This is the first time the Kelowna Actors Studio will be presenting a production in the round with the audience sitting on all four sides of the intimate theatre.

Tickets are available at kelownatickets.com the show will run from April 3 to April 14.

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