Tag Archives: Natalie Radmall-Quirke



Trafalgar Studios



Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 15th July 2019



“to praise each element of Equus individually is unfair, because it is the tandem of these parts that makes the production truly divine.”


It isn’t uncommon to see a play emotionally move an audience – to make them feel the pathos or joy that the characters are experiencing. However, I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen theatre physically move an audience – to make them lean forward, gasp, and let their jaws hang for extended periods of time. It’s a testament to the power of Equus, then, that the audience member sat next to me – along with many others – barely seemed to even be in their seat, so moved were they by the ferocious and sinewy stallion of a play that was taking place.

Equus centres on Alan Strang (Ethan Kai), a seventeen-year-old boy who blinded six horses over the course of one night. It rests with psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Zubin Varla) to uncover the motivation behind the crime, although in doing so he is also forced to interrogate his own beliefs on religion, passion, and purpose. The story is framed chiefly around this patient-doctor dynamic, although a host of other characters are implicated in Martin’s analysis, including Alan’s parents Dora (Doreene Blackstock) and Frank (Robert Fitch), forming a claustrophobic and tense psychological drama. But the true genius of Peter Shaffer’s writing (also of Amadeus fame) is that this paradigm is only one of the levels on which Equus operates; bubbling under the scientific surface is a much more non-secular interrogation of the social and cultural values that cultivated the environment in which Alan could be compelled to carry out such acts as he did. Shaffer’s rhetoric can be transcendentally poetic, weaving metaphor upon metaphor into a textured tapestry that cuts to the very core of what it means to be alive.

The writing never strays into the territory of being overly-ruminative though. Ned Bennet’s visceral and kinetic direction ensures that the intellectual complexities of the play are being constantly physicalised and theatricalised, with the help of Shelley Maxwell’s inventive and raw movement direction; Alan’s bed being used as a trampoline on which he is brutally flung around under a vicious strobe light, for example, serves to manifest the emotional realities of the character. This is heightened tenfold by the soul-searing strings of the sound design (Giles Thomas), the unnerving, subliminal lighting (Jessica Hung Han Yun), and the slick and stripped back set design (Georgia Lowe). The performances, too, are roundly sublime – Varla especially is revelatory, fully owning the hefty language of his many monologues, immaculately delivering the thematic nuance of the speeches with drive and agency. Credit must also go to the transportive ensemble and animal work, as many of the cast also embody horses during the play, particularly Ira Mandela Siobhan as Nugget.

However, to praise each element of Equus individually is unfair, because it is the tandem of these parts that makes the production truly divine. The quality of the writing exacerbates the direction, which exacerbates the performances, which exacerbates the design, and so on ad infinitum. It constructs a whole reactor of impeccably crafted atoms, all meteorically colliding with each other in a seamless symbiosis that creates the nuclear level of theatrical and spiritual energy that is transferred to the audience and galvanises them to move. Equus is utterly celestial.


Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by The Other Richard



Trafalgar Studios until 7th September


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
A Guide for the Homesick | ★★★ | October 2018
Hot Gay Time Machine | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Coming Clean | ★★★★ | January 2019
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★ | February 2019
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | February 2019
A Hundred Words For Snow | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Admissions | ★★★ | March 2019
Scary Bikers | ★★★★ | April 2019
Vincent River | ★★★★ | May 2019
Dark Sublime | ★★★ | June 2019


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com


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The Weir

Mercury Theatre, Colchester

Reviewed – 14th September 2017





“deftly humanised with well measured humour, outrage and bad language”


I have to say that on venturing out in the drizzle for this theatre visit I was anticipating something heavy and oh-so intellectual that might have proven too much for a cold Thursday evening. I mean, there is a pretty serious weight of expectation when you sit down to offerings from the man the New York Times dubbed as “possibly the finest playwright of his generation”, yet I’m happy to say that The Weir by Conor McPherson did not drag or disappoint in any way.

The single act play, set in a small bar in rural Ireland is exactly the kind of shabbily charming production that complements regional theatres so well, with gloriously stereotypical characters gently unfolding over the course of an hour or so in ways one wouldn’t have predicted from the outset. You could boil the whole thing down in summary as an entertaining five-way conversation in the pub, punctuated with stark leaps between comfortable silliness and sombre soul bearing. I found myself in giggles and shivers in equal measure.

It is an entirely captivating story about stories within stories, deftly humanised with well measured humour, outrage and bad language. If you have ever found yourself spending a lot of time either side of the bar in a small town pub then the scene and the players will feel distinctly familiar, even if the subject matter doesn’t.

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The cast all do wonderfully, though the show is somewhat stolen by Sean Murray’s portrayal of cantankerous old bastard Jack, tearing constant strips off flashy Finbar, played with an affable, awkward edge by Louis Dempsey. The old goat and the young(er) pretender trade blows and showboat throughout the eighty odd minutes of action, nicely supported by the contrasting knitwear clad background shufflers, Jim and Brendan. John O’Dowd is appealing and understated as Jim and Sam O’Mahony plays a marvellous turn as the long suffering landlord Brendan who shrugs his way through the evening pouring the drinks and correcting the balance of comfort and grumpiness in his patrons. He is as much a part of the scenery as the bar set (Madeleine Girling) itself; the cosy host providing warmth but remaining a smidge too rugged to be completely cuddly. Natalie Radmall-Quirke is equally fun, strong and melancholy as new girl and gossip point, Valerie, a role that I imagine could become dull very easily with too much leaning towards classic girly sympathy bids which she has avoided quite elegantly.

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The triumph of both the writing and performance of The Weir is in the contradiction; going from fairies and weddings, to horror and tragedy, without ever rocking the boat enough to realise how completely the mood is shifting until you are laughing out loud when you thought you were about to have a quiet cry. Although it is far from a simple, the base element of a need to connect with those around us and turn out our own tales is so universal that the appeal should extend to all. It is a really wonderful and easy play and I don’t hesitate to give it full marks.


Reviewed by Jenna Barton

Photography by Marc Brenner




is at The Mercury Theatre, Colchester until 16th September



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