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Friday, 26 September 2008

Appalling Equus Review in the New York Times by Ben Brantley

Find the full 'review' here:

I'm just going to pick out a few of the passages which have made me come to the conclusion that this reviewer is a twit.

"Mr. Radcliffe’s Alsatian-blue gaze, very handy for glaring down otherworldly ghouls if you’re Harry Potter. Or if you’re Alan Strang, for blocking and enticing frightened grown-ups who both do and do not want to understand why you act as you do.

"I had forgotten just how much is made of Alan’s eyes in “Equus,”..."Fortunately it projects as big from the stage as it does in cinematic close-up"

"Mr. Griffiths does banality beautifully...He resists the temptation to play hotdog surfer, riding the purple waves of Mr. Shaffer’s symbol-saturated monologues"

"The problem with such well-considered acting is that it throws a clear and merciless light on the hokum of the play as a whole"

" for all the prancing horse-masked dancers on the revolving stage with its Stonehenge-like blocks — I never felt a ripple of vicarious passion."

"a garden-variety sexual identity crisis dressed up for a night at the races"

"It doesn’t help that Ms. Sharrock has the supporting cast members turning directly to the audience to make such announcements (things along the lines of, “Well, now that you mention it, he did keep this strange picture above his bed.”). These performances are infected with the let’s-out-British-the-British strain that often happens to New York actors mixed with English actors in English plays."

"Carolyn McCormick and T. Ryder Smith offer broad emotions without the refining detail of individual character. Anna Camp is appealingly natural as the young woman who unwittingly leads Alan to his acts of destruction."

"Kate Mulgrew, as the magistrate who is Dysart’s confidante, is alternately as plummy and mannered as a society matron in a Maugham drawing-room comedy and as portentous as a sinister housekeeper in a creaky-old-house chiller. Ms. Mulgrew, for the record, was the only cast member awarded with exit applause before the final curtain when I saw the show (this after a particularly flamboyant declaration to Dysart). Personally, I winced whenever she opened her mouth, but I think the audience was hungry for the sort of campy grandeur she provided."

"There’s no question that “Equus” has dated, particularly in its presentation of psychiatric investigations (something Mr. Shaffer humbly admits in a program note). But taking it too seriously may not be the best way to serve it in revival. This version had no crackling artificial fire to match the annoying smoke that kept rising through the stage floor. And as much as I admired the sensitivity and intelligence of Mr. Griffiths’s and Mr. Radcliffe’s performances, this revival might have been better off if everyone had just gone for the Gothic."

A poor excuse for a review if ever there was one. I have seen 12 year olds do a better job (no, really... I have.) I can't believe this guy gets paid to write this garbage. What is this? free association? There seem to be no real direction this 'review' is going in... for two pages. It just waffles and switches from one train of thought to another.

I know my ramblings are like that too, but that's just what they are meant to be - ramblings. To review something, and to review it well, you have to be concise - there was far more to this bloody play than Harry Potter's blue eyes and his cock. I feel a bit sorry for Radcliffe, because he is never going to get past the Harry Potter label. As for the reviewer, I have rarely come across anyone who talks so much yet says so little. Big, words which are seldom used in the every day vocabulary of the populus do not maketh the man.

Firstly: The only thing 'natural' about Anna Camp's performance was the birthday suit she wore. She overacted so much it was at times, quite painful to watch - the accent was dreadfully put on - and in a cast of mainly British actors, she stuck out like a sore thumb. NOBODY in England talks like that. Not even posh people.

Secondly: "Campy grandeur"?!

Sorry, I must have missed the part where Kate Mulgrew whipped off her clothes, revealing herself to be a 7 foot drag queen dressed as Liza Minnelli, and belting out a rendition of "Maybe This Time".


Ok, so Ben Brantley didn't like Kate Mulgrew - that's fine, fair enough, that is his opinion. I don't like Ben Brantley or Anna Camp, those are mine - we're each entitled to our own opinions. But to say he winced every time she opened her mouth? that's hardly constructive criticism, is it? What earthly purpose does that serve anyone?

Her performance could have been weak, she could have fluffed her lines, she could have had an horrendous British accent, she could have mumbled, she could have turned up drunk and staggered onto the stage.. but to include in a serious review for a good newspaper that he didn't like her voice?!?..... what's next? does the style of Richard Griffiths beard offend thee, my good sir?

Jesus Christ.

I'm half-tempted to write an essay on this review, pulling it apart and analysing it like I had to do at uni, because it is SO full of holes that I'm suprised it hangs together on the page and doesn't have great big gaps in the print. How this got past an editor and got published is beyond me. I expected better from the New York Times. If I wrote something like this in school for an english class when I was 12, I would have got it back with red pen all over it, and a nice big D at the top of the page.

So basically... the play was shit, the director was shit, the cast was shit, the style was campy, the actors couldn't act, harry potter was in it, so were his alsatian blue eyes, harry potter is the only reason why this play was any good, the audience were stupid and are there purely to be insulted by pithy reviewers, kate mulgrew was a trannie in disguise, richard griffiths was in it too, some horses were blinded, some vague connection to Mozart, Anna Camp was 'natural' and au naturel, and Graeme Malcolm doesn't exist and wasn't even in the play.

Poor old Graeme Malcom! how come he didn't even get a mention! He was just as good as any other member of the cast - probably better than the guy who played Mr. Strang, AND he is such a nice man too! such a shame for him, but it's probably a good thing he wasn't mentioned because he'd have just been slagged off like all the others were.

Did that critic even see the same play I did? coz it sounds nothing like the Equus I saw twice O.O

I think Ben has got the idea of his job description a bit warped - a theatre critic is not just a person who criticises theatre. There's a slight difference between critiquing and criticising, and don't think he has quite found the balance yet... maybe he's new, or is the work experience kid or something.

I suppose that, at least, is something the English do well:


You'd never find such garbage in the The Times over here.

Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens....

....Ben WHO!??

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