It doesn’t take more than one Google search to stumble upon You Tube videos of Daniel Radcliffe (naked) on Broadway, to realize that Jester’s production of Equus isn’t just another Western play performed by an Indian cast.
Part of Thespo at Prithvi, the troupe consists of a bunch of next-generation thespians who don’t give an inkling to what they’re about to put you through. But before getting into the who, why and how, a mention must be made about Hidayat Sami’s skills on the lighting board. The man’s a wizard, a visually talented gem and the play could not have had the desired effect without it.
Alan Strand is a 17-year-old boy with a fetish for horses that’s beyond religious. But when he blinds four of them in the same night, he’s sent to an ‘institution’ to have sessions with child psychiatrist Dr Martin Dysart. Psychologically unsettling and seriously disturbing, the story takes on different twists and turns when Dysart tries to reconstruct the events from that night and from the boy’s life that lead to the gruesome incident.
For a troupe fresh out of college, Equus is an ambitious project. But director Daniel D’souza has done a fine job bringing it to life. It can’t have been easy considering he also plays the role of Alan Strand.
We’ve seen our share of experimental. In fact, Indian thespians can’t afford anything more on the budgets they have to work with. But this play is revolutionary, not for equaling production values, but for its actors, shedding their inhibitions and taking Indian theatre to another level. An example of this is a part that made many audience members uncomfortable — an orgiastic scene where Strand re-enacts his secret ritualistic interactions with the horses. This actually left the audience shell-shocked, and wide eyed. But after the initial shock wore off, there was no turning back. The play takes Indian theatre to a higher level, one with no hope of return.
Equus is one of the best plays to come out of Mumbai’s theatre scene this season. But don’t go in with reservations about nudity or homoerotic undertones, unless you’re prepared to lay them to rest.