Saturday, February 16, 2008

Equus in Chichester

I don't want to bore people. My reactions to the Thea Sharrock production of Equus in London with Dan Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths were extensively blogged at the time. The same production is now touring with Alfie Allen and Simon Callow in the main roles. It was a very different experience seeing what was apparently the same production (minor changes to staging throughout) with different actors and in a different venue. At times one was questioning whether there had been major textual changes because it simply felt so different. I'm sure there weren't but I was often left thinking, 'I don't remember that'!

The main difference for me, however, was taking R to see it. We are quite different people and our tastes are sometimes spot on together but much of the time we fail to see the excitement or interest in something that the other is raving over. In this case R just failed to 'get it'. Which is hardly surprising since we already knew he hadn't much enjoyed the film. That's not to say that R didn't have a perfectly plesant evening out but the play didn't actually touch him. The main criticism to be levelled at Equus over the years is that Schaffer is romanticising pain and suffering. Certainly, if one accepts that it is the psychiatrist whose voice is most authoritatively that of the play itself, then this charge can't really be ducked. Such is the risk-averse, overly logical, un-romantic nature of much of our culture and cultural criticism at the moment that such a charge, of making pain and suffering important and passionate and redemptive, is nigh-on fatal. But I do think it is the reason why some people 'get' Equus' and others don't. In that personality test, The Enneagram, I am very clearly a number 5 - the Tragic Romantic - this would be obvious to most people reading this blog without the aid of personality tests. R can hold on to his privacy about what his type is, but suffice it to say he ain't a Tragic Romantic. This is why I 'get' it and why many others 'get it' - and why he and many others don't. Equus isn't something to agree with or disagree with, it is an experience to have. For some, the tragic romantics, this will be akin to taking part in a ritual: intense, all-consuming, life-changing. For others, whose personality is different this will remain a puzzling and slightly disconcerting but not ultimately moving exeprience.

The final irony is that The Enneagram, in some forms, attaches a totemic animal to each personality type. One animal for when that type is at their best, one for when at their worst. When the tragic romantic is at their best? A galloping black stallion!


John C said...

I just took the test (never tried it before) and came out overwhelmingly on Point 4, The Artist. No surprise there. Seeing as that's the same as the Tragic Romantic I should obviously see the play. I enjoyed the film, of course, despite Burton's bluster.

J said...

Alfie is built like a classical statue, isn't he? There's no excess weight on him, yet his waist is thick--compared to Radcliffe, or what's generally in fashion physique-wise.

-Jim D.

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