Without knowing the details of the crime, Peter Shaffer set out to construct a fictional account of what might have caused the incident. The play's action is more of a detective kind of a story. The story involves the attempts of the child Psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart, to understand the cause of the boy's actions while wrestling with his own sense of purpose.
The play called Equus was primarily stages at the Royal National Theatre at the Old Vic in London in 1973. Surprisingly, it garnered an exceptional attention from the audience. John Dexter directed Equus which was starring Alec McCowen as psychiatrist Martin Dysart and Peter Firth as Alan Strang, the young patient.
Right after three years since its first presentation in 1976, the play was transformed to the Albery Theatre with Colin Blakely playing a character of Dysart. Equus was also presented on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre with Anthony Hopkins and Peter Firth. Later on, Tom Hulce played a character of Alan Strang, whereas Anthony Perkins replaced Hopkins as Martin Dysart. Anthony Perkins was briefly replaced by Richard Burton for the star's return to Broadway for a limited run but he resumed the part when Burton's run ended.
Other actors to play a character of Dysart in the Broadway production were Leonard Nimoy and McCowen. However, numerous other issues informing the narrative are the religious and ritual sacrifice themes. The narration was also informed by the manner in which character Alan Strang develops a personal theology involving the horses and the supreme godhead, 'Equus'.
The religious overtones extend beyond the boy's sexual attraction to horses. At the same time these overtones overlap with his normal sexual awakening with a female character. Also of prime importance is that when Shaffer scrutinizes the conflict between personal values and societal mores. Shaffer describes the conflict between Dionysuan and Apollonian Values and systems in human life keeping in view of the play's classic structure, themes and characterization.
In 1975, Equus ended up as 'The Best Play' title and garnered a Tony Award, also for John Dexter's direction. Key actor of the Play, Firth, was nominated for Best Actor but lost the award to John Kani and Winston Ntshona. Equus was acclaimed widely for its dramatic craftsmanship and the performances by artists. Also was brilliantly original staging contribute to a greater extend to make it a hit of the time.
The horses were portrayed by artists wearing brown track suits with a wire abstraction of a horse's head.
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