Equus and becoming-animal

Etruscan black-figured depiction of a centaur on amphora - Flickr user: diffendale
Etruscan black-figured depiction of a centaur on amphora – Flickr user: diffendale

I saw the excellent production of Equus currently playing at the Theatre Royal Bath on Saturday. The cast gave a brilliant performance, I was particularly impressed with the ever-energetic Simon Callow and his masterful depiction of the psychiatrist Martin Dysart. Alfie Allen was also very good as Alan Strang.

All of the allusions to Freud got me thinking though…

“Afterwards, he says, they always embrace.

The animal digs his sweaty brow into his cheek… and they stand in the dark for an hour… like a necking couple.

And of all nonsensical things, I keep thinking about the horse… not the boy, the horse, and what he might be trying to do.

I keep seeing the huge head, kissing him with its chained mouth… nudging through the metal, some desire absolutely irrelevant… to filling its belly or propagating its own kind.

What desire could this be? Not to stay a horse any longer? Not to remain reined up forever in those particular genetic strings?

Is it possible, at moments we can’t imagine, a horse can add its sufferings together… the non-stop jerks and jabs that are its daily life… and turn them… into grief?

What use is grief… to a horse?

You see… I’m lost.”

The opening lines of Equus – Peter Shaffer

‘The politics of becoming-animal remains, of course, extremely ambiguous. For societies, even primitive societies, have always appropriated these becomings in order to break them, reduce them to relations of totemic or symbolic correspondence’

Deleuze & Guattari (2006) A Thousand Plateaus, London: Continuum – p. 273

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