Home Arts Don’t be afraid of the dark

Don’t be afraid of the dark

by The Concordian September 6, 2011
World-renowned director, choreographer and painter Domy Reiter-Soffer has come to Montreal this fall to open the theatre season at the Segal Centre with his innovative production of Peter Shaffer’s psychological drama, Equus.
Based on the real story of a Norwich youth who blinded six horses in an act of passion, Equus traces the interaction between psychiatrist Dr. Martin Dysart and the disturbed 17-year-old Alan Strang as they undergo a psychotherapy program to discover the root and reason for the teenager’s cruel action.
Since its first showing in 1973, Equus has intrigued and provoked audiences as a powerful portrait of psychological terror, religious fervour, and sexual obsession.
Long celebrated through countless showings, a movie adaptation, and a recent revival in the public eye thanks to the controversial casting of Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe in a 2007 West End production, Equus is a popular theatre choice.
Montreal’s own Rialto Theatre hosted a production last April, directed by the accomplished Paul Van Dyck. But Montreal actor Dan Jeannotte (Alan) maintains that the Segal’s offering will be different.
“Domy has a really unique vision for this show,” said Jeannotte of his director’s approach.
“The show’s going to be very visual. It’s got a lot of beautiful movement in it, and I think it pulls the play off the page in a very exciting way. It’s not necessarily what people are used to with Equus—it’s not a show I’ve seen before. This one has a lot of dance elements in it, a lot of abstract imagery, and it’s really overall a much more engaging piece because of the way [Reiter-Soffer] is approaching it.”
The set and costume design promise to make visual Reiter-Soffer’s abstract aesthetic philosophy for Equus.
While the original 1973 production of Equus at London’s Old Vic Theatre utilized actors in deconstructed horse-head masks to symbolize the horses’ presence on stage, Reiter-Soffer’s offering relies on movement and physicality to evoke the horses’ strength and elegant motion.
“[The horses] are very stylized… they’re represented by movement-based actors, [and] they don’t have horse masks on, but they’re embodying the horse, the spirit of the horse, through the way they move,” explained Jeannotte. “That kind of stylized element that comes from Domy being the director—it’s seen throughout the whole show.”
As a narrative, Equus mirrors the conflicted psychology of its characters: it is at once psychological and physical, introspective and outspoken, timid and wild.
Jeannotte found playing the role of the “insular” Alan both challenging and rewarding.
“[He] doesn’t really know anyone or have any friends [besides] his parents and the people at the stable. [But] what I think is really beautiful about Alan, and why he’s so fun to play, is the part that everyone can relate to: he has a huge imagination and a rich, rich inner life.
“That’s something that people either understand, because we all have imagination, or something that we aspire to, in a way—to have an inner life that is as exciting as his is.”
Jeannotte, a founding member of local comedy troupe Uncalled For, also appreciates the balance he’s been able to strike between comedic and serious roles throughout his career as a comedian and an actor. The performer and writer has also appeared in local stagings of As You Like It and Hedda Gabler.
“I’ve been doing theatre as long as I’ve been doing sketch stuff and comedy, and the two have always gone hand-in-hand,” he explained. “I wouldn’t want to do just one or the other because it’s important for [my career and for] my own well-being to have the light and the dark.” 

Equus begins on Sept. 11 and runs until Oct. 2. Student tickets are $22. For more information, visit www.segalcentre.org.

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