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EQUUS a dance and theatre staging of
Peter Shaffer’s landmark play

Extremity is the point                                                                                       

Today’s world bombards every waking – and sleeping – moment with images, information, ideas, sounds, tastes, smells, atmospheres … arguably we are living in the most sensual and sensually awakened world possible. But this melange of apparently infinite choices comes with a very real danger. It is as easy to get swept away by it as it is to get swept out of it.

It is a paradoxical world where inclusion and enhanced technological connectivity goes hand in hand with exclusion and human disconnect. This is an era which encourages isolationist, divisive and fundamentalist cults and cliques as much as it encourages the bridging of gulfs. It is an era where information is as easily shared as suppressed, as easily found as lost. It is an era where Gujarat pogroms are possible and defendable, where suicide cults with bizarre beliefs regularly make the news, where devotees and followers of Bal Brahmachari can violently prevent his body from being cremated in the belief that he will come to life again.

Anchors are few and far between, role models are brand ambassadors rather than any figures of moral or social solidity, and the idea of freedom of choice and interpretation is in a volatile mixture with an absence of guidance and direction – dissolving all sense of perspective, all notions of ground reality, all clarity of informed response.

“Extremity is the point”, says Dr. Dysart of Alan’s act of violence: how much more extreme can the world today be?

Modern citizens for whom society does not exist

17 year old Alan Strang could be any of the perpetrators involved in the apparently random acts of youth violence – individual and collective, personal and communal – we encounter so regularly today. He is in no obvious way abnormal, his home is like a thousand other homes. Though his parents disagree strongly on the issue of religion, it is not a loveless or dysfunctional home by any stretch of imagination.

But he exists in a vacuum with no regular friends, confused and alienated by the pace of the world around him. He is rudderless except for his befuddled, intense and extreme ideas of religious devotion jumbled up with closeted adolescent sexual cravings. He has nothing to occupy his mind except his unbridled and misdirected passion for his God, nothing to place his world in perspective. Desperately searching for something to hold on to, something to believe in, some code to live for and by, it is all too easy for him to recede into a fantasy world of his own creation – a world where reality and illusion are intertwined impenetrably, where secret and guilty passions grow into obsessions.

His only truth, his only genuine experience is – at least to external eyes – an essentially dangerous and dark one: his worship of and primal passion for his God, something that both sustains and destroys him, and renders him incapable of dealing with human connections when they do appear. “With my body I thee worship!” It is ironic that the person and incident that ignite Alan’s self-destructive act of violence in Equus, is the one truly human (to human) experience that he has known.

He is, in the words of Dr. Dysart, “a modern citizen for whom society does not exist”.

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