12 comments on ““Extremity’s the point.”

  1. Yes, it’s a fine play. I did see it on the London Stage in 1977 (with Michael Jayston as the psychiatrist) in it’s stylised form, and then, just a few months later, the Richard Burton film version, heavily over-literal in depicting the crime itself, (though that is what film-goers, of course, would demand). I haven’t seen it in any form since then, 35 years ago. But at that time I had no doubt which was the more profound experience.
    However, you mention your own reasons for being able to identify with aspects of the play and seeing it in ways which I certainly hadn’t appreciated then. Nor did I pay as much attention as ought to have been due to the mind of Martin Dysart himself. From both the above poster for the local version which you’ve just seen, and the ones for the recent Daniel Radcliffe Broadway production, it seems that all the attention is being made to appeal to the role of the boy, which seems a pity, that being only one element, admittedly a major one, of the entire tale.
    But I’m glad you saw a worthwhile production which did it justice. When I do get an opportunity to see it again I’m sure that, being now at least twice as old as I was formerly, some of the points that you make ought to stand out in greater relief.

    • Thanks for the comment. I touches on something I hadn’t thought about directly that is interesting. As familiar as I am with the play, every time I see or read it there is a mild surprise as I rediscover the degree to which it is the Dr’s story more than the patient’s.

      Sent from my iPhone

    • Great comment about the film too. I think the film fails for me because of the use of real horses. To your point, it makes the violence more graphic and shocking on one level. But it over-focuses (pretty sure that is not a word) on the violence. It’s easier to see the horses in the full context of the young man’s mind when they are more metaphorical. Truly the violence, awful as it is, is not the most shocking aspect of his interaction with the horses. Seeing him as just a troubled young man who brutalizes animals makes it harder to care about him.

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. This is one of my favorite plays. I’ve seen it a couple times and it left me deep in reflection each time. Passion can be so strong it can separate someone from what is perceived as normal. The doctor’s recognition of how this boy lives in a deeper place is just exquisite to me. It’s written in such a way that the writer has taken the character’s point of view and completely turned it around: who is really insane, someone that knows passion so intense and profound, or someone trapped in the normal and the nothing.

    I tend to really love heavy dialogue pieces. And I also love works that examine what is normal and those that are on the outside of it. Because I love animals so much the first time I saw Equus was hard for me. It was the Richard Burton movie version, and then shortly after that I saw a performance off Broadway.

    The doctor’s monologues are so compelling. In his own way, he never actually condemns the boy while also never trying to justify his madness either. He just explores this path of intensity without belittling it with societal restrictions, like right and wrong. At least, that’s how I heard it.

    • Thanks for your comment. Your comment about being an animal lover, along with the other disturbing aspects of his relationship to the horse are the reasons I think the play would still work if presented in a contemporary setting rather than as a period piece.

      The doctor’s monologues are powerful and truly the heart of the play. I think of them as soliloquies though they are structured as narration.

      Sounds like we have similar taste in theater. I think I can hold my own with the best of them when it comes to show tunes but I would happily walk by the box office of a musical if there were an edgy drama playing in the next block.

      Sent from my iPhone

  3. Yes. I almost feel a little corrupt because we all first saw Daniel Radcliff when he was 10 or something but he grew up to be a nice looking young man. In that production the psychiatrist was played by the actor who played Uncle Vernon in the Harry P movies..

  4. I saw the play some years ago in London with Daniel Radcliffe. I didn’t have high expectations of him, but he proved me completely wrong. He was very good. He even won some awards for it. Although I have to say that Richard Griffiths in the same play was marvelous.

  5. I’m not going to be happy to take the heat (if any) for saying this, but it must be said. Unless he or she was making a conscious effort to reference the Seventies via Studio 54, someone needs to go to prison (without possibility of parole) for that poster.

    I’ve never seen ‘Equus’, and forewarned that the movie is not the best way to experience it, I think I’ll seek it out. It was Richard Burton’s seventh and final Oscar nomination. ‘Exorcist II: The Heretic’ with Burton was released the same year (1977), and though I’m rather fast and loose with calling this or that movie ‘the worst ever made’, it’s entirely possible that ‘the Academy’ passed him over for ‘Equus’ based on the taint of ‘The Heretic’ (the worst movie ever made…).

  6. I read this play first in high school oh so many years ago. I remember my English teacher thinking it was an excellent choice. Then in college they performed it on campus. I have not seen it since, but I have always liked it. It is that ever elusive question being asked….what is normal…what is madness?

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