15 April 2009

Premiere shows of 'Equus'

The premiere of Ranan’s dance and theatre staging of Peter Shaffer’s landmark play‚ Equus last week received a standing ovation. Three shows remain - 17‚ 18 and 19 April at Gyan Manch. Tickets @ Rs. 60/- are available at the hall everyday from 1pm to 7pm.

The photographs above are from the second show on Sunday, 12 April 2009. To view the full suite of images, please visit http://picasaweb.google.com/iyengar.vikram/EquusARananProductionSunday12April2009#
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for any further information, please email us at rananindia@gmail.com or call 9831256730.

11 April 2009

Equus Preview - The Telegraph


07 April 2009


  Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said [Job 38:1]    Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with   thunder? The glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley,   and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha. [Job 39: 19-25] [qtd. in Equus p. 22]  

These verses from the book of Job describe the majesty and mystery of the creatures that fascinate Alan Strang, the 17-year-old protagonist of Peter Shaffer's play. When the play opens, this young man's case is being presented to a psychiatrist. We learn only the bare facts: one night, at a stable in Winchester, he blinded six horses with a metal spike. We gradually learn that long before the night of the mutilation, these animals played such a central part in Alan's life - in fact, all the key moments in his development were marked by encounters with horses.  

Ordinary horses are transformed into deities, whom Alan worships according to a ritual of his own devising. As a deity, Equus represents a composite of Christian theology, Greek mythology, and pagan ritual, both old world and new. He clearly possesses the paradoxical nature of the Christ figure. Like Jesus, Equus "is in chains for the sins of the world and he lives in all horses". In exchange for taking him out of his chains, "Equus promises Alan salvation by making the two of them into one: horse and rider shall be one beast". Just as Christ accepted humiliation and crucifixion, curbing the power that could destroy his persecutors, Equus is willing to be a "Godslave", submitting his strength and power, so vividly described in the book of Job, to human control—to the bridle and the bit—in order to defeat the enemy. 
  Alan's ritual and his ideas about horses also draw heavily on the book of Revelation. Revelation 9:17 describes "the heads of horses [which] were as the heads of lions," with fire and smoke and brimstone issuing out of their mouths" —and verse 19 speaks of the "power of the horses [that] is in their mouth"; in chapter 6, the verses describing the four horsemen of the apocalypse attribute the power of speech to the horse. Finally, Alan quotes the lines from Revelation 19:11-12 which describe the horses' eyes: "And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True. And his eyes are a flame of fire and he hath a name written which none knoweth but he himself". The persona of Equus also bears the strong influence of Greek mythology, in which horses were considered to be of divine origin, issuing from the union of Poseidon and Demeter. 

But it was not Shaffer's intention to simply create a composite deity. Equus, in Shaffer's words is "the name one individual gives to his impulse for worship." (Vogue, File 49) It is this impulse itself, in all its primitive powerful and mystical glory, that Shaffer sees being systematically repressed and destroyed in the modern world. The enemies of this incarnation of the god Equus are identified in Alan's ritual incantations: they are "The Hosts of Hoover. The Hosts of Philco. The House of Remington and all it tribe!" They are "The Hosts of Bowler. The Hosts of Jodhpur" (64). These unlikely minions dominate Alan's "rather dreary and colourless provincial life" which according to Shaffer, consists of "working with not much to look forward to in an electrical and kitchenware shop, with an unimaginative but kindly father and an unimaginative but kindly mother (who are much the same although one happens to believe in God and one does not)" (Vogue, File 49). 

The world of equitation consists of a one-sided demonstration of the rider's ability to control his horse. In Alan's world, horse and rider must become one—like a centaur or the mounted conquistadors who were initially taken for gods by the Incas. This union is at the same time religious (like the Christian union of god and man) and sexual; and for Shaffer it was important that the two be considered inseparable. He was fascinated by the historical interrelations of sex and religion, and the awe of early religions before the mysteries of fertility and reproduction, which often made sex a central part of their rituals.  

In Equus, through the intermediary of the mythical horse, Alan Strang succeeded in recapturing his own joy and a sense of meaning that Shaffer sees as having abandoned the Western world. He is able to feel both genuine passion and pain. Unfortunately, however, in the process of accessing the elemental and the ecstatic, Alan has gone beyond the boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour and Dysart, acting as the representative of social norms, has no choice but to excise this part of Alan's existence and banish Equus from his mind. 

Shaffer was especially drawn to the theories of Carl Jung. His conception of Alan's ability to truly feel was influenced by Jung's characterization of "neurosis as an escape from legitimate pain" (Vogue, File 49). In an interview, he remarked, "Until I read that, I hadn't quite been aware that there was such a thing as legitimate pain. I think Jung is one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, [because] Jung is so intensely grounded in myth." Shaffer continues: "Most people do not realize—and by 'realize' I mean they do not feel intensely, from day to day, in any way that truly affects them—that we did not begin the world, that we are repositories, walking encyclopedias, of all human experience, that we contain within us, within our heads and without our genes, the whole of human history. The more one comes to realize that the cells of one's brain contain endless archetypal images that stretch back beyond the Stone Age, the more one can come to an immense and important sense of who one is, for himself, instead of just a little worried package of responses and reflexes, sexual drives and frustrations" (Vogue, File 49-50). 

Dysart's profound envy of Alan's ability to worship primitively and passionately, is the source of the play's tragic conflict. Shaffer has commented that "Tragedy obviously does not lie in a conflict of Right and Wrong, but in a collision between two different kinds of Right: in this case between Dysart's professional obligation to treat a terrified boy who has committed a dreadful crime, and Alan's passionate capacity for worship.  

If Alan's creation of Equus the Godslave, and the psycho-sexual union of boy and horse could be considered a problematical solution to modern alienation, no such ambiguity has been attached to Shaffer's creation of Equus as a piece of theatre that recovered the mystery and ritual of ancient Greek performance, whether it be the Dionysian revels or classical tragedy. It is actually in one of Shaffer's more recent plays, also with a classically inspired title, The Gift of the Gorgon (1992), that the lasting impact of Equus is described: 

The theatre [is] the only religion that can never die . . . at its height, centuries ago here in England just as much as Greece, the theatre gave us faith and True Astonishment - as religion is supposed to do. The playwright set up his play like Athena's shield: a great shining surface in which you can see all truth by reflection! The audience assembled before it, and peered into it together, in communion. They saw themselves enlarged-made legendary as well as particular, in all their glory and ghastliness. It faced them with towering shapes of their most intense and terrible desires. Undeniable pictures, formed of blazing words. They came away astounded. Scared. Exalted. Seeing themselves, perhaps for the first time, which they'd always thought ordinary-lit with the fire of transformation. 

Extracted from 

  Equine Voyeurs: Myth, Psychoanalysis and Consumer Culture in Equus

  by Angela C. Pao, Department of Comparative Literature, Indiana University

02 April 2009

Equus - Curtain Raiser Events

As a lead up to the Equus premiere run, Ranan presents two curtain raiser events. These will comprise excerpts of performance and music from the production along with the opportunity to interact with the cast and crew, talking about the process behind the production: 

The first of these is on Thursday, 2 April 2009, 3.45pm 

In association with the Department of English, Jadavpur University. At the Comparative Literature DSA Auditorium, 3rd floor of the Arts Faculty Building in Jadavpur University. 

The second one is on Sunday, 5 April 2009, 6pm 
In association with Open Doors and Tollygunj Club. At the Tollygunj Club Stables. 

If you would like to attend either of these, do send us an email at rananindia@gmail.com