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So anyway,
Because what the Net really needs is another person sharing his uninformed views
Theatre review: Equus 
22nd-Feb-2007 10:56 pm
Here we go then. Right from the off, I want to make it very clear that I am reviewing a preview of this production - a distinction not made by certain newspapers... ah fuck it, let's name and shame them one more time, it was The Sun ("9 out of 10 morons said they preferred it") and the Daily Mail ("A great read!" Mr A. Hitler.) Peter Shaffer's Equus is at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue and opens officially on the 27th of February.

To get you in the mood, here's the view as you approach the theatre. The Gielgud is undergoing major restoration work so it's surrounded by scaffolding at the moment. Making the best of it, the producers have covered the scaffolding in black and put up a massive Equus poster on the corner. You can see it from several blocks away - yes, it's as subtle as the rest of the marketing has been.

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So, on to the production itself. For anyone who hasn't read a newspaper, been on the net or generally got out of bed in the last month, Equus is a sort of psychological mystery. Martin Dysart (Richard Griffiths) is a child psychologist reluctantly taking on the case of a violent teenager, Alan Strang (Daniel Radcliffe.) Strang is a stable-boy who one night blinded six horses. As Dysart works on him, he discovers a boy whose mother is ultra-religious, his father rabidly anti-religious, and who has taken these opposing infuences and created his own form of worship based around horses, and the god, Equus, that Alan sees in them. As the story goes on we slowly discover how this worship turned to violence - and Dysart begins to question his own empty life.

Dysart is the central character but this production has been all about Daniel Radcliffe and his stage debut. I won't lie, I was nervous about whether he could pull it off - his film work has been mixed at best and this is one of my all-time favourite plays. Ridiculously cute he may be, but that wouldn't have saved him from my wrath if he'd been shit. Fortunately, he was far from it. Early reviews have praised Radcliffe to the rafters - I don't know that I'd call his performance an unqualified success, but it was bloody good. A sudden, very public leap onto the demanding West End stage could have been downright embarrassing if he wasn't up to it, but not once does he seem out of his depth. His main problem - a tendency to be wooden - is still in evidence sometimes. Early on especially his performance is quite flat, Alan's short, aggressive replies being a bit one-note after a while. In this sort of role, in such a stylised play, he can can get away with it. It'll be interesting to see how he copes if he turns to something more naturalistic next.

One thing about him is undeniable: We've heard a lot about how he's been having vocal coaching for well over a year, and bloody hell has it paid off. His projection is flawless. Not one word is anything less than crystal clear, it's as if he's sitting next to you. The cast may include veterans with decades of experience behind them, but Radcliffe wipes the floor with them. That's right, as far as sheer voice projection goes, Radcliffe shits all over Richard Griffiths (who, talented though he may be, has always been a bit of a mumbler.) In addition, he's lucky enough to have something no amount of hard work can get you, and that's stage presence. Despite his slight frame1 he's immensely watchable. OK, the fact that he's grown up so handsome - even the super-sexy photos don't quite prepare you for it - doesn't hurt, and I'm prepared to admit that, even after a 24-hour cooling-off period my judgement of his performance may be affected by how hot he is, but only slightly: Any compliments I pay him I believe.

The character of Alan has three major scenes, all of them flashbacks, and while he has his off-moments until then, when those scenes arrive Radcliffe nails them. Another element of his performance that'll stand him in good stead in his stage career is his amazing physicality, and he displays this in the first of these, when he regresses to 8 years old and his first ride on a horse. His sullen expression melts into real childlike glee. The decision to use dancers as the horses was an excellent one, and ballet star Will Kemp is a great choice for Nugget/Young Horseman. Kemp and Radcliffe together have a real visceral2 connection and my only reservation with this scene is Alan falling off the horse - he is gently supported by his father (Jonathan Cullen) instead of crashing to the ground. I can understand the need to protect their valuable young star from injury, but being such a physical performer a couple of fight workshops would have been enough for Radcliffe to master falling without hurting himself, and the scene would have had the sense of trauma it deserves.

The other two major scenes for Alan are of course the most controversial ones, firstly where he has an orgasm on horseback, and finally the infamous nude scene. Again, Radcliffe is spot-on and I'll mention these scenes again later (yes, I'm going to blab on even more, sorry.) In the one lighter scene he does get, where he goes to a porno cinema only to find his dad there, he also displays a good comic touch. The good news is, Radcliffe's worked hard for this part and it's paid off in spades. The bad news is I think he's always going to need to put this much effort in. But if he can get comfortable enough with the phenomenal pair of lungs he's got to not worry about projecting his voice, and focus on bringing more life into the quieter moments, we could be looking at a pretty impressive theatrical career. As for my question of "will he play Hamlet by the time he's 30" the jury's still out; but I'd give pretty good odds on him doing it by 35.

Now, I'm going to be massively controversial so please, no lynchings. I was a little bit disappointed with Richard Griffiths. Maybe it's the fact that, unlike Radcliffe, I expected him to be excellent, so he had more to live up to. Here's the thing though: When I heard about the casting, I re-read the play, "hearing" Griffiths' voice for Dysart. It immediately made the lines better, and I even laughed at lines that I hadn't found funny before. And yes, his dry delivery does get some great laughs and he gets the character's pathos down to a tee. But the performance I saw onstage wasn't that different from the one in my head, and I guess when you're talking about an actor of that calibre I want to see something unexpected. He does have some standout moments though, notably a gruesome dream in the first act.

Another note about Griffiths, and I'll say once again that this is a preview, with nearly a week to go until the Press Night, is that he doesn't quite have his lines down right. It's understandable - Dysart has an enormous amount of dialogue, and several fairly similar speeches - but a couple of times Griffiths seemed to lose his place, and once he stepped on Radcliffe's line. The second act starts with exactly the same words as the first, and he seemed to be concentrating very hard not to launch into the wrong speech. I'll admit these are nitpicks and will probably be fixed by the time the "real" reviewers come in.

Some more reservations before I get back to the good stuff: The production is still a bit flabby in places, notably in the scenes where Dysart deals with Alan's parents. Overall the younger cast members come out of this better than the older ones, and I suspect this is because director Thea Sharrock spent more time on Radcliffe's scenes than the rest. The rehearsal period is never long enough, his scenes are pivotal, and I can't say in her shoes that my priorities would have been any different but even so, the older cast members seem to have been left to find their own way more than I would have liked. I hope Sharrock uses the remaining preview period to tighten up the smaller, more domestic scenes because at the moment this is where the production flags. And while I'm on a downer, Jenny Agutter doesn't have a very meaty part as Hesther, but she still could have done more with it; and while I did think that having an Irish actress as Alan's religion-mad mother was a bit of lazy shorthand, Gabrielle Reidy grows into the part and is believable.

Now back to the positive stuff: I've already mentioned Will Kemp. He and the other dancers playing horses do a sterling job, bringing the energy, grace or menace of the animals as the scene requires. The metal hooves on their feet look dangerously precarious but the performers are never anyhting less than energetic and poweful. Joanna Christie as Jill is also excellent - despite being several years older than Radcliffe she comes across as more youthful, with her sparkly, slightly dizzy performance never patronising her character. She's also genuinely beautiful - although slightly less glam when I spotted her while I was walking around to pass the time before going into the theatre (she was standing outside the stage door smoking a fag.)

I really wanted to be all mature and not comment on the nudity but there's been some really nasty comments made about both Radcliffe and Christie in the last few days, and I wanted to respond to that. Firstly no, Radcliffe doesn't have a particularly big cock, but it's not the embarrassment a lot of people have made it out to be. At worst it was on the lower end of average, I've definitely seen smaller. If anything I admire him more for the fact that it proves beyond a doubt his intentions in taking the role were entirely artistic, and not 'cause he has some mammoth schlong he couldn't wait to show off. If you really think he's freakishly small, you should probably watch less porn. Besides, Dan Jr. hangs out with some pretty big mates - his bollocks are fucking massive and the willy's bound to look small in comparison. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of detail you won't be getting in the Daily Telegraph's review. Probably.

As for Joanna Christie, the photo of the sex scene which appeared in some tabloids has led many people to snigger about her not having any tits. In the photo she is arched out lying on her back, with her head thrown back. If you don't know why she appears flat-chested, may I introduce you to the Law of Gravity. Plus her boobs are what's known as "real" so they don't stay the same at all angles.

Back to Thea Sharrock and John Napier, the original designer from 1973 returning for this production. Between them they get the tone of the big, creepy scenes just right. The simple set, once again featuring audience members onstage, is brilliant. Napier's inspiration was those Victorian operating theatres, where members of the public could look down from high above and watch dissections. And yes, it does have this feel, but even more so for me it reminded me of a gladiatorial arena, with a number of passages surrounding the central circle from which instead of lions horses could emerge at any moment, beautiful or terrifying. The designs collide with the performances in the climactic scene of each act, that have a suitably nightmarish, hypnotic quality. In his final naked frenzy, Sharrock has coaxed real passion out of Radcliffe and as the ending makes clear, if there's one thing the actor playing Alan Strang needs to convey, it's passion.

So that's my review of the production. It's not the last time I'll be posting about Equus, I'm still keen and nervous to see what the official reviews say in a week's time; and I'll be able to see if the preview's flaws have been ironed out with time when I see it again (this time in a stage seat) at Easter. Until then, there's just one more thing I have to get off my chest:

Sweet Zombie Jesus but the DanRad looks good naked. I mean, insanely good. All the bits we've already seen in the photos look even better, and the bits we haven't seen are just as good. The legs on that man! Having now seen every inch of him from top to toe - and as a bit of a "foot man" I give them top marks as well - how anyone could find fault 'cause he doesn't have a porno-sized willy is beyond me. And if you thought his arse looked good in the photos... let's just say it's a good job I don't believe in hell or I'd be going there.

1and I'm talking about his general build here, not calling him short. 5ft 5-and-a-half is a very respectable, manly height. The fact that it also happens to be my height has no bearing on me making this observation *cough*

2it's a theatre review, I have to use the word "visceral" at least once. It's the law.
(Deleted comment)
22nd-Feb-2007 11:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah, you could say I quite enjoyed it I suppose.

And to be honest, I think if you wait until the fuss is over the run will have ended :p
22nd-Feb-2007 11:30 pm (UTC)
That's what gets me...the average guy doesn't have porn cock. I mean COME ON! Get real. Plus, he's still 17. Men I know have said they've grown in size with age...but who cares. He has a normal twig and berries! LOL!

His body looks great from the pictures I've seen. From what my friend said, he agrees with you. That Dan looks insanely good.

Great review!
22nd-Feb-2007 11:54 pm (UTC)

And yes, it's annoying when someone gets his bits out for whatever non-sexual reason and people instantly make size jokes when the guy's just average. I have been known to tell them to get out of their rooms and get a real boyfriend, then they might work out that when it's not at action stations it's not meant to be huge (it'd just get in the way.) If it looks big on the slack chances are it's been fluffed up beforehand, and since the DanRad's onstage for the whole act, he doesn't exactly have a chance to have a fiddle.

How did this get so smutty so quickly? And I was doing so well. Meh.
23rd-Feb-2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
It's not being smutty. We're just discussing human anatomy! LOL! People rant on about women's bodies like it's nothing, but once we start discussing dick....OH! It's sooo taboo! Anyone would be lying if they said they didn't care about what he's packing.

I had a feeling Dan wasn't going to be Dirk Diggler or anything. But you got me on his "mates" LOL!!! I'm sorry but that cracked me up. I just wasn't expected 'He's got BOLLOCKS!' LOL! I'm loving that he has a beautiful body in general. Dan just seems an all around good bloke to me ...and a very attractive one, too!

Back to pros and cons of theatre.
You're not the only one to criticize the length of the production and Griffiths performance. It's seems any review I've read so far, that Griffiths is the weak link in the chain. I hope he pulls it out for a stellar opening night next week.

23rd-Feb-2007 11:18 pm (UTC)
Oh I wouldn't call him the weak link, by any means. Just that I didn't get blown away by his performance like I expected to. If I had to pick a single weakest link it would probably be Sharrock's uneven direction, which left several scenes flagging. And I'm not sure I have seen many other reviews that criticised Griffiths - with the exception of your own post where your friend said he was disappointed with his performance, I've seen almost unadulterated praise.

Don't worry, I have absolutely no qualms about being smutty LOL - and on a forum about male celebrities I post on I didn't have any problem with giving that particular "review" since that's the focus of that forum. It would have been nice if I could have kept it out of a review of the play itself, is all. But the way the show's been marketed has been very much about Dan Jr - take, for instance, all those photos coming out and getting a reaction, and then on the day of the first preview a full-rear shot gets released. The message was pretty clear "OK, you've seen almost all of him, but for the bit you really want to see you'll have to buy a ticket!" So then you get the idiots who want to make fun of his (and Joanna's) "special areas," and I thought that deserved comment.

The marketing is the only reason I'm still a bit worried about next week's official reviews. Not that I'm implying that professional reviewers would slag off a good performance just to be vindictive *cough* but as the promotional material has been 100% about the DanRad, that's inevitavly what the readers will want to know about, and what will get extra-strict scrutiny.
22nd-Feb-2007 11:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the review. You definitely has some new insights that I hadn't come across. Especially about the stunt falling. I like reviews that don't have an agenda attached to them. Nice job.
22nd-Feb-2007 11:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I probably do have a hidden agenda, it's just so well hidden even I don't know what it is.
23rd-Feb-2007 12:37 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for a well-rounded review, esp. concerning where the play is weak and what its and the actors' strengths are. I sure hope it comes across the pond... or else that my lifepartner and I win the lottery so we can make it to see it in London. Cheers! (fyi - I friended you after reading a few of your other posts. I noticed you are a Buffy and Angel fan, plus you are anti-Bu$h, which are pluses in my book.)
23rd-Feb-2007 01:54 pm (UTC)
Cheers - and yeah, I don't see the point of doing a review and only mentioning the good stuff, even in a production like this one that I've really enjoyed there's always room for improvement. And since I never got to be a big West End director myself, I like to be picky about the people who actually did get the chance LOL. Not that I have grand illusions that the people involved are going to rush to ream my review and take my suggestions. But then again you never know, this is the internat age and people google themselves all the time.

It's too early to know for sure if you'll get your wish of a Broadway transfer but the signs are looking good - and frankly they'd be daft not to do it, considering the buzz it's had all over the world.
23rd-Feb-2007 01:49 am (UTC)
Awesome review. Thanks
23rd-Feb-2007 01:54 pm (UTC)
23rd-Feb-2007 02:18 am (UTC)
Ah, thank you. That was a wonderful review. Gives me an idea of what to look for and what to expect if we ever get lucky and actually have someone with the money and balls to bring it over to Broadway.

Porn cocks are scarier than most people think. I look at the things and I think about disarming nuclear missiles. O.o Alright, maybe not all the time, but porn seems to give people unhealthy expectations of sex, in general. So maybe the question of Dan Rad's size crept into my mind more than once, but I certainly wasn't hoping to see a massive, dangling penis. Call me Goldicocks--I sorter want it just right, a.k.a. normal.

Now that I've got talk of cocks off my chest, I'd like to thank you again for your review. It was informative and highly interesting. It satisfied my Equus fix for the day.

::lights a cig::
23rd-Feb-2007 01:59 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it, and that it helped you get those cocks off your chest.
23rd-Feb-2007 02:56 am (UTC)
I believe I may spontaniously orgasm from your review alone! I did see the art that lizardspots drew of "Alan" that showed his personal stuff and I have to say, he's very well endowed in the berries department and that's BOUND to make everything else look smaller. Plus, he is 17, not fully grown, NOT erect, etc etc. No way to know what he's really packing. Not that it matters. The boy is H-O-T and if he continues to improve his acting as he goes, he could really end up somewhere amazing in another twenty years. Personally, I'm hoping he learns enough doing this to put some more emotion and a little less "stiffness" into the next Potter film.
23rd-Feb-2007 02:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I have to say I don't usually associate my blog entries with making people spontaneously orgasm but there's always a first time. I think that drawing might be being slightly generous but only slightly. I'm not sure if "berries" is really the right word... although apparently watermelons are technically a berry so maybe it is.

I'll be interested to see if the experience translates into the films, yes. Another thing that might help is that now he's older they can shoot the films over a shorter period because they can use the now-adult actors for a full working day. Bearing in mind that his stage performance got better as he got into it, maybe there'll be better footage of him as well if he can really get into his film roles rather than having to stop every day after a couple of hours for legal reasons.
23rd-Feb-2007 02:47 pm (UTC) - =)
reading your review I realized that it will take me years more to learn English for understanding all words. Of course such words that you used as parts of body I wouldn't search in a dictionary, lol, I didn't try actually)) I could give an analogical word in Russian without complication))

I like your review, you touched all important questions, maybe some ppl will find it frank (as I do actually), but you're right - we won't see the details you mentioned in "Daily Telegraph". And a lot of girls who wrote the review were just hesitating to discuss such items as Dan's stuff. Though I cannot say that I am too curious in his sizes, but still that was quite interesting for general info, lol.

One American newspaper said:
"One problem, though, is the length.
Of the play, people, the play! "

So due to you they won't have troubles with other sizes, lol.

Thanx again for the review.

p.s. I like Dan's co-actress, she's quite nice-looking.
23rd-Feb-2007 02:48 pm (UTC) - upd
I say it always, I'll say it again: it sucks living NOT in UK))
27th-Feb-2007 11:10 am (UTC)
I've seen your posts in the NC-17 forum. Do you mind if I add you?
27th-Feb-2007 01:32 pm (UTC)
'course you can, cheers :)
27th-Feb-2007 09:39 pm (UTC) - ...
Wonderful review! It was great reading it...you have quite a talent with writing. Have you ever heard of the site, epinions.com? I think you'd make a great reviewer on it...promise me you'll check it out :)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of detail you won't be getting in the Daily Telegraph's review. Probably.

Heh..I doubt it.

And if you're wondering, I too found you from NC-17. Hope to see you on the board sometime :D
27th-Feb-2007 10:29 pm (UTC) - Re: ...
Thanks; OK, I'll check it out when I get the chance.
27th-Feb-2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
"Firstly no, Radcliffe doesn't have a particularly big cock, but it's not the embarrassment a lot of people have made it out to be. At worst it was on the lower end of average, I've definitely seen smaller. If anything I admire him more for the fact that it proves beyond a doubt his intentions in taking the role were entirely artistic, and not 'cause he has some mammoth schlong he couldn't wait to show off. If you really think he's freakishly small, you should probably watch less porn. Besides, Dan Jr. hangs out with some pretty big mates - his bollocks are fucking massive and the willy's bound to look small in comparison. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of detail you won't be getting in the Daily Telegraph's review. Probably."

That was probably the single greatest paragraph of theatrical reviewing ever.

Thanks for the review! Word on the street is it's definitely transferring!
27th-Feb-2007 10:40 pm (UTC)
Haha thanks - maybe I should submit it to one of the papers and see if I can get a job? "Well that's my review of the new production of Coriolanus. Now turn to page 32 where I sneak into the dressing room and let you know which cast member has the biggest cock."

Yeah there's lots of talk about a Broadway transfer. It was the Press Night tonight - good reviews would pretty much seal the deal I reckon. Be good if you can get to see it without having to buy a plane ticket LOL.
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