Equus - English Theatre in Budapest

Zöld Macska Diákpince
Pest South, IX, Üllői út 95 [map]
Klinikák (M3), 1 min

A complex psychological drama about a disturbed teenager is not the most obvious choice for the first play from a new production company. The decision to cast Hungarians in the lead roles of an English-language play might also raise eyebrows.

A little more detail doesn't make the prospects any rosier: Leo Ilyés, who plays psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, and Miklós Béres, who plays the troubled Alan Strang, have never performed in English before. Leo has to tackle several monologues while Miklós has a nude scene to handle. The auditorium is a cellar in a bar and the props are largely constructed from wire and bits of cardboard.

All of this sounds suspiciously like a recipe for disaster, but by ten o'clock, it's clear that the whole thing has worked out remarkably well.

The reason for this is that director, Rhett Stevens, knows what he's doing. His casting of Hungarians in English roles isn't as daft as it seems: actors who can handle the roles are rather more important than British accents. Also, it has lent the cast a sense of community and the play a wider purpose.

Leo explained his initial trepidation: "At the casting, Rhett asked me to read from an English text, and I looked at it and thought: I can't do it. I must have been pretty bad but he must have liked something." Leo also praised the entire cast who together helped him master the demands of the script, providing a full immersion environment to help develop his English.

Stevens' casting throughout is spot-on; I can't imagine the central characters in each other's roles. Miklós makes a convincing Alan. From boyish glee through teenage obstinacy, ecstasy and embarrassment, his delivery is excellent. He takes the role in his stride: whether getting into the mindset of a disturbed teenager or taking his clothes off in a packed but tiny auditorium. "I didn't even think about thinking about it", he says.

The production too is commendable. Humming sound effects, provided by the cast, are ominous and exciting at the same time, while the lighting feels professional despite the limited facilities. Moreover, the minimalist horse-riding scenes truly capture the imagination.

Equus is by no means perfect. There are a few fluffed lines here and there, some of the acting feels a little conscious, and the Hungarian accents are, at times, demanding for an English audience - although Stevens points out that the opposite is true for the Hungarian contingent.

This, in itself, alludes to the clear success of the production: Equus serves everybody. Both Hungarian and English audiences have a chance to see an ambitious English-language production, with absolutely no intention of dumbing down the script. Development of the actors is also mutually beneficial for Hungarians moving into English roles and English-speakers moving into acting.

The current run at Zöld Macska has just two performances left and if you're looking for gripping theatre, you'll get your money's worth at 1400Ft a ticket. But what next for Equus? Stevens hopes that Equus will pop up again for a few one-off performances but after the summer he'll turn his mind to a second production. He ponders for a moment... "I'd like to do a comedy."

The remaining performances of Equus take place at
Zöld Macska on 21st and 24th May, just across the road from the Klinikák metro stop on Line 3. Full details, cast and tickets here.
Equs, Echus, Echuus, Equous
Andy Sz.


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