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Art Appreciation

February 4 2007 Art Appreciation Newsletter

Nudity in the play "Equus"

Publicity photos have been released of Daniel Radcliffe in the play "Equus." He is, of course, the actor who plays the boy wizard in the Harry Potter movies. He is about to play the part of Alan Strang, a young man obsessed with Equus, the mythological horse god.

There was a 1977 film by the same name directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Richard Burton as the psychiatrist, Martin Dysart. The stable boy, Alan Strang, was played by Peter Firth. He secretly rides the horses in the night and for reasons we may never know, in a fit of rage, blinds six horses. In the movie, Alan is seen nude in several scenes. I have not seen the movie, but I would think that Hollywood lighting wizards would have been able to work with shadows and light to achieve the intentions of the writer and director. But with a play, if the actor is nude, it’s just him and the audience. A little too "up close and personal" for most people.

What disturbs me in Daniel’s photo is that this seventeen year old boy displays his pubic area (shown on national television). He is certainly telecasting "I am man" even though he is idolized by many young girls (13-14 year olds) who frequent his website. Doesn’t that send confusing messages to the youth of today? Is it necessary that he play this role in the nude? I personally don’t think it’s necessary to "bare all" to the hungry media. If this part really requires his nudity, then it’s a conscious choice for the theatergoer to buy a ticket and attend the performance.

While doing research for this newsletter, it was refreshing to find an American performance of "Equus" at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, Ohio. From their publicity photos, it would appear that the actor playing Alan Strang is fully clothed. The horses he takes out at night are instead a group of men wearing only briefs. This may have a hidden meaning as Alan has a failed sexual encounter with a young girl, Jill, in the stalls. She tells him that "A love of horses can be a substitute for sex."

Daniel Radcliffe, child film star, says that "Equus" is "The most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done." Time will tell if his nudity will have any effect on his young audience.

"Equus" with Daniel Radcliffe previews at the Gielgud Theatre in London on February 16 and opens February 27, 2007. In the US, "Equus" will be performed at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, Ohio from February 2-25, 2007.
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