“Perhaps the most ambitious yet satisfying play of the festival was Equus. Ranan’s production had just the right does of innovation, leaving Shaffer’s riveting script intact.
Director and dancer Vikram Iyengar’s raw, powerful choreography had dancers playing horses, seamlessly weaving dance and theatre.
Pure theatre, combining imagery, sound, and movement in the most sublime way.”
Kavitha Rao, The Caravan, Mumbai, December 2009
(review of the Prithvi Theatre Festival, Mumbai)
“Equus is a play that haunts you. It began to exert its influence even when I read an excerpt from the climax of Act I in a collection of Audition Scenes for actors in 1992. Soon after I procured a disintegrating second-hand copy of the text – one that I still own – and the haunting was complete.
Horse-riding was a passion with me during school. Years later, when I worked with the Equilibre Horse Theatre Company in Wales, the majesty, mystique, grace and rhythm of horses came back to me with full force. Along with their contrasting natures of serenity and unpredictability. These textures are all there in Equus.”
Peter Shaffer’s Equus delves into the mind of 17-year old Alan Strang who blinds six horses in an inexplicable fit. Through a series of encounters with a psychiatrist, we come face to face with more questions than answers. What is normal, what is worship, what is passion, what is individuality? Equus throws up all these issues using the mythic figure of a horse as metaphor for worship, passion, pain and danger.
Ranan’s staging uses movement, classical dance and verbal text to explore Shaffer’s themes of normalcy, insanity, passion, pain, worship and religion, finding echoes of Equus in the world we inhabit today: a world where it is okay to react with extremity at the slightest of provocations, a paradoxical world where inclusion and enhanced technological connectivity go hand in hand with exclusion and human disconnect, a world in which society has begun to exist on the borderlines of fear surrounding itself with the tools of violence to feel safer.
The production brings together actors, dancers, designers and technical personnel in an experience that treads the thin line between sensuality and brutality, normalcy and insanity, primal forces and contemporary pressures.
Equus premiered in April 2009 at Gyan Manch, Calcutta. It went on to tour to Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad playing at national theatre festivals before the closing show in March 2011 at the same venue it first opened in.
The original cast of Equus comprised Amlan Chadhuri, Daminee Basu, Debosmita Roychoudhury, Indudipa Sinha, Jayati Chakraborty, Rhea Dawn, Shadab Kamal, Tanmay Dhanania, and Vikram Iyengar. Later cast members were Lav Kanoi, Shataf Figar, Sourav Mondol, and Surangama Majumder.
The piece was directed and choreographed by Vikram Iyengar, with Amlan Chaudhuri as co-movement director. Stage design was by Sunkanya Ghosh with lighting by Sudip Sanyal. Neel Adhikari composed the original music. Costumes were designed by Katy Lai Roy and executed by Dana Roy.
All images on this page are by Tom Lai or Kamalesh Chakraborty.