When I was a freshman in college, I went to Canada for the first (and only) time to see a performance of Peter Shaffer’s play Equus. I remember little about this, except the performance was well-staged, all of my friends wanted to give the actress in the nude scene a cheeseburger, and it was kind of annoying the way Brian Bedford kept waving cigarettes around, but never even pretended to smoke them. Be that as it may, Equus is a fascinating play, first staged in 1973 in London, that centers around Alan Strang, an adolescent boy, who, in an act of seemingly senseless violence, uses a metal spike to blind six horses in the stable where he works as a groom. Springing outward from this central act, the play deftly deals with issues ranging from the morality of psychiatry to sexuality to worship. Wrestling with these issues is middle-aged psychiatrist Martin Dysart (played by Richard Burton in the 1977 film version) who agrees to treat Alan and acts somewhat like a detective, striving to find a reason why someone would commit the act that Alan committed. As he struggles, he wonders to what extent he, in the psychiatric profession, is helping or harming his patients. In the quest to make someone “normal” is he responsible for making them lose what makes them them? The play doesn’t answer this question (nor does it answer any of the others it raises), which probably goes a long way toward explaining its enduring effectiveness and popularity.
And what does all of this have to do with Harry Potter? Well, Daniel Radcliffe, the young actor who has played Lord Voldemort’s nemesis in the film versions of the books, will be playing the role of Alan Strang in a London theater production of Equus next year. Playing the mentally-troubled youth will be quite a departure from the G-rated world of Hogwarts that has brought him fame, especially since he’ll have to appear nude in one scene. (Insert requisite joke about magic wand here.)
In at least marginally-related news, Stephen King and John Irving are apparently big Harry Potter fans, urging author J.K. Rowling (who is at work on the seventh book in the series) not to kill off the eponymous wizard in the series finale. Apparently, this is a very important issue. No, really. Rowling has said that she understands why authors kill characters, since this can stop other writers from churning out sequels after the original author has died, and this statement has caused all sorts of freakout among Potter fans. I’m not one, so I don’t care one way or another, but I think it’s gotta be hard to say goodbye to your gravy train. Because mmmmm, gravy.
And now I think I’m Pottered out. Ba-dum-cha!