Quickie Review: Daniel Radcliff Horsey Drama
Justification . . . . justification . . . justific . . . .
HONEY? DO YOU KNOW WHERE I LEFT THE JUSTIFICATION FOR REVIEWING AN ADULT PETER SHAFFER PLAY ON THE CHILDREN’S LITERATURE BLOG? WHAT? oh.
Here is it. *ahem*
Daniel Radcliff is the only boy to professionally play Harry Potter in a cinematic production of Joanne Rowling’s children’s novels. Ipso facto, he is best associated with that role and now he’s in Equus on Broadway. Hence today’s post.*
On Sunday my mother-in-law was in town and we were playing the old what-do-you-do-with-a-guest routine we often go into in such cases. At this particular time it was 2:00 and suddenly Matt had an idea. Why not try for a 3:00 matinee? So we hopped on ye olde subway, bust a leg getting to TKTS, and lo and behold there were tickets! For Equus, no less. We snatched them up, took off, and made it to the theater with time to spare. In our haste we hadn’t quite notice where our seats were, so when they walked us up to a box seat just above the stage we were a bit stunned. Happy, but stunned. It reminded me of the time I’d gotten to see J.K. Rowling speak at Carnegie Hall in similar seats. Apparently I can only see Harry Potter connected folks when surrounded by red velvet. No objections here.
For me the play Equus has primary associations with the monologue given by Dr. Martin Dysart at the beginning of the show. You may recall a speech about a dream of sacrificing children on an altar stone. Well the part of Dysart was played by Richard Griffiths (a.k.a. Uncle Vernon) and he gave a stellar performance. For one thing, he imbued Dysart with a dry wit not immediately apparent in the text. Sure the play gives Dysart all the funny lines but Griffiths managed to give the character a humor and vulnerability not readily apparent in the script. On top of that the entire staging seemed to give fans of the original production enough familiar set pieces (men dressed as stylized horses) to keep them appeased while for new fans it was an arresting work of stagecraft.
Actress Kate Mulgrew played the part of Heather Saloman and for this reason I’m sure I was not the only nerd to lean over to my husband whispering, "Is that Captain Kate Janeway?" It was. Fortunately after the initial shock I never had that thought again. Ms. Mulgrew played the part to the hilt and I loved that I could watch a scene between a professional man and woman and detect zero sexual tension. It doesn’t happen too often on screen or in plays, and I’m always happy when I run across it.
I had walked into the theater assuming that Mr. Radcliff would be great, which is a bit of pressure to place on any actor. There sits the audience before you and you can bet that at least some of them will be thinking, "Go on, boy. Impress me." For the character of Alan Strang, Radcliff had to have a couple basic qualifications. He had to have an arresting stare that would unnerve people and a presence that would justify the doctors’ interest in him. He had to pretty much go through every possible emotion, often in lightning quick succession, and physically fill the entire stage. He had to also contain himself and become invisible when other characters were talking, which is not always easy for the star of any show. And, most infamously, he had to be naked. Now, I don’t know how much you know about the show but I read the script several years ago. I had never seen a production, so I don’t know how common this is. But in any case, he is not naked for a small section ala Hair. Radcliff leaps, pounces, cavorts, and flails in the buff for a good five-plus minutes which was unexpected to say the least. My husband pointed out that it seems unfair that all the attention is placed on his nudity but no one ever mentions that there is also a naked woman on the stage as well. This is probably one of the few moments in history when more attention is given to the man than the woman in such a case.
At any rate, Radcliff essentially had to give a fearless performance, giving himself up entirely to the role. And I’m sure that if I were a theater critic I might be able to point out some confusing deviation from the text or false interpretation of a line. As it stands, I am incapable of doing so. Radcliff was really quite good. So good that we got into an argument on the way home over how old he was. I thought he had to be at least 21. Matt thought it was 19, since he remembered when the first Harry Potter film came out. Turned out he was right. Doggone film fans…
So if you happen to be in New York before filming starts on the next Harry Potter movie, getcher hiney over to Equus pronto. And if you’d like cheaper tickets, consider seeing a Sunday matinee. It’s worth every penny.
*Yeah, it’s pretty weak but I’ve done weaker in my time.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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