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Dark drama at the LBT.

Byline: VAL JAVIN

IT IS more than 30 years since Peter Shaffer's play Equus first took critics and audiences by storm.

And this psychological thriller, based on a true story, continues to provoke debate with its exploration of worship, desire and violence.

London Classic Theatre's new touring production of Equus opened at the Lawrence Batley Theatre last night. Performances continue tonight and tomorrow at 7.30pm with a matinee on Saturday at 2.15pm.

Equus marks the Surrey-based company's fourth visit to Huddersfield. The company's founder and artistic director Michael Cabot, said: "I'm delighted that we are back at the LBT. "I think Yorkshire audiences always give you a very honest response to the work.

"As a director, you know very quickly if they aren't with you."

Equus was first staged by the National Theatre in 1973 and four years later, was adapted to film starring Richard Burton and Peter Firth.

Four years ago, the play was revived in the West End in a production which featured Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths.

It sees psychiatrist Martin Dysart take on the most challenging case of his career, that of an unassuming teenage boy Alan Strang who blinds six horses. "I wanted to start afresh with this production, in effect putting to one side the play's distinguished production history, and literally approaching Equus as a new script," said Michael Cabot.

"The horses from the original production were brilliant creations, iconic in their way, but we wanted to go back to the text and start literally from scratch. "The play presents a number of challenges to a director and designer, not least in bringing the horses to life. Going back to one of the play's major themes, the importance of Ancient Greek culture and Greek gods, designer Kerry Bradley has re-imagined the horses as striking creatures of myth and legend." "Also, with a cast of eight, the emphasis is very much on a committed ensemble who will all be involved in bringing the play to life.

"I'm very fortunate that some of our cast come from a dance and movement background, so the production has a strong physical side."

Equus is a contemporary classic which delves into the darkest recesses of human existence.

Inspired by the true story of a Norfolk youth who blinded six racing horses, it looks not only at the clash of the Christian and the pagan but also at the struggle between intellect and passion. As psychiatrist Dysart exposes the truths behind the boy's demons, he finds himself face-to-face with his own. "We're always made very welcome at the LBT," said Michael.

"We first played the theatre back in 2009 with The Beauty Queen of Leenane. It's great to feel that we are developing a strong, constructive relationship with the venue." Tickets for Equus are pounds 12 from the Lawrence Batley Theatre box office on 01484 430528 and online at www.thelbt.org/equus. Equus is part of a season ticket deal at LBT which offers three shows in its autumn season for pounds 33.

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* FALLING MASKS: Matthew Pattimore as Alan Strang and Aidan Downing as Nugget in London Classic Theatre''s production of Peter Shaffer''s play, Equus. Picture by Sheila Burnett
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Sep 23, 2011
Words:534
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