Q&A with Equus producer Elliott Marsh


INTERVIEW Nathan Li & Megan Smith

Can you introduce yourself a little bit to our fellow students at Macquarie University?

My background is as an actor and theatre technician. When I was at university (QUT) in Brisbane I studied technical theatre and drama. My job outside of uni was working at a large performing arts centre backstage on shows so I got a great insight into how productions are put together.

After leaving uni I decided to study acting overseas so I moved to London and got a job as an actor touring with a large entertainment company around Europe. It was great getting paid to do something I loved whilst travelling the world at the same time! An opportunity arose within that company to help co-produce a play and that was my first taste of creating a production from scratch. Equus is my first solo venture since returning to Australia.

Equus has been around for 40 years, why did you decide to bring it to the Sydney audience?

About a year ago now, I decided I wanted to create some work for myself, my friends and use the networks and resources in the industry I have made so began thinking of my favourite plays. Equus was one. When I did some research I discovered that it was 40 years old this year and I also discovered that none of the major theatre companies had programmed it into their seasons. Not that they should have, but its a timeless classic, so I was a little surprised no one was doing it for the anniversary. I also have an interest in supporting local artists and young people in the arts, and Equus is centred around youth related issues.

What about the play do you think still resonates with audiences?

The play is based on real life events, which makes it even more shocking. Universal themes, such as youth in society, coming of age, the media and its effect on society, religion, sex, crime, mental illness, parental influence on children and the question of ‘what is normal’, resonate in some way. Peter Shaffer (the author) wanted to explain the real life crime and so created the ‘world of Equus’.

The play seems to elicit strong, controversial reactions, what was your reaction when you first saw the production?

I saw a Melbourne production of Equus recently. What moved me most was the commitment of the actors. They go to dark places in this play and challenging places on a personal level. It’s confronting at first to see a naked body on stage. Then you realise, it’s just a naked body on a stage.

I don’t think Equus is a play one can watch passively. It invites you to consider something else being possible in life verses a reasonable, educated assumption about a person or situation. It challenges one’s beliefs, excites the senses and brings to the forefront all that is ‘gruesome’ in the world, putting on a platform conversations that should be spoken about but are not. Or not spoken about enough.

What do you want the audience to take away from your version of Equus?  

I would love the play to move and inspire people, to take action in their lives in places they have been wanting to but not getting around to. For example, realising that big dream they have been putting off for so long. Or simple, looking at life from a different point of view. Equus has the power to shift perceptions I think.

Have you taken many creative liberties with the original version of the play? 

Peter Shaffer is quite specific in his stage notes, so we have to adhere to those quite a lot. What we can be liberal with is interpretations in costume, lighting and sound. For example, we have an original score being composed by Jessica Wells, who has worked on both Happy Feet movies and with Baz Luhrmann on Australia.

Daniel Radcliffe brought the play into a more mainstream reception, how do plan to carry on the legacy from him?

Equus will carry its own legacy. Its the story and the relationship between the characters and the unique staging and physical theatre that has had it survive 40 years. Daniel Radcliffe was simply a way of bringing into a new decade. And he did it very well. By staging Equus, we are continuing the story for another 40 years.