Equus. Peter Shaffer.
MARTIN DYSART, a psychiatrist
FRANK STRANG, his father
DORA STRANG, his mother
HESTHER SALOMON, a magistrate
HARRY DALTON, a stable owner
A YOUNG DALTON
Six actors - including the Young Horseman, who also plays Nugget - appear
The main action of the play takes place in Rokeby Psychiatric Hospital in
The time is the present.
The play is divided into numbered scenes, indicating a change of time or locale
or mood: The action, however, is continuous.
Dim light up on the square. In a spotlight stands Alan Strang, a lean boy of
seventeen, in sweater and jeans. In front of him, the horse Nugget. Alan's pose
represents a contour of great tenderness: his head is pressed against the shoulder
of the horse, his hands stretching up to fondle its head. The horse in turn
nuzzles his neck.
The flame of a cigarette lighter jumps in the dark. Lights come up slowly on the
circle. On the left bench, downstage, Martin Dysart, smoking. A man in his
DYSART With one particular horse, called Nugget, he embraces.
The animal digs its 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 it may be trying to do. I keep seeing that 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 that be? Not to stay a horse any longer?
Not to remain reined up for ever in those particular genetic strings?
Is it possible, at certain moments we cannot 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?
Alan leads Nugget out of the square and they disappear together up the tunnel,
the horse's hooves scraping delicately on the wood.
Dysart rises, and addresses both the large audience in the theatre and the
smaller one on stage.
You see, I'm lost. What use, I should be asking, are questions like
these to an overworked psychiatrist in a provincial hospital?
They're worse than useless: they are, in fact, subversive.
He enters the square. The light grows brighter.
The thing is, I'm desperate. You see, I'm wearing that horse's head
myself. That's the feeling. All reined up in old language and old
assumptions, straining to jump clean-hoofed on to a whole new
track of being I only suspect is there. I can't see it, because my
educated, average head is being held at the wrong angle. I can't
jump because the bit forbids it, and my own basic force - my
horsepower, if you like - is too little. The only thing I know for
sure is this: a horse's head is finally unknowable to me. Yet I
handle children's heads - which I must presume to be more
complicated, at least in the area of my chief concern. ... In a way, it
has nothing to do with this boy. The doubts have been there for
years, piling up steadily in this dreary place. It's only the extremity
of this case that's made them active. I know that. The extremity is
the point! All the same, whatever the reason, they are now, these
doubts, not just vaguely worrying - but intolerable ... I'm sorry. I'm
not making much sense. Let me start properly: in order. It began
one Monday last month, with Hesther's visit.
The light gets warmer. He sits. Nurse enters the square.
NURSE Mrs Salomon to see you, Doctor.
DYSART Show her in, please.
Nurse leaves and crosses to where Hesther sits.
Some days I blame Hesther. She brought him to me. But of course
that's nonsense. What is he but a last straw? A last symbol? If it
hadn't been him, it would have been the next patient, or the next.
At least, I suppose so.
Hesther enters the square: a woman in her mid-forties.
HESTHER Hallo, Martin.
Dysart rises and kisses her on the cheek.
DYSART Madam Chairman! Welcome to the torture chamber!
HESTHER It's good of you to see me right away.
DYSART You're a welcome relief. Take a couch.
HESTHER It's been a day?
DYSART No - just a fifteen year old schizophrenic, and a girl of
eight thrashed into catatonia by her father. Normal, really ...
You're in a state.
HESTHER Martin, this is the most shocking case I ever tried.
DYSART So you said on the phone.
HESTHER I mean it. My bench wanted to send the boy to
prison. For life, if they could manage it. It took me two hours solid
arguing to get him sent to you instead.
HESTHER I mean, to hospital.
DYSART Now look, Hesther. Before you say anything else, I can
take no more patients at the moment. I can't even cope with the
ones I have.
HESTHER You must.
HESTHER Because most people are going to be disgusted by the
whole thing. Including doctors.
DYSART M AY I REMIND YOU I SHARE THIS ROOM WITH TWO
HIGHLY competent psychiatrists?
HESTHER Bennett and Thoroughgood. They'll be as shocked as
DYSART T HAT ' S AN ABSOLUTELY UNWARRANTABLE
HESTHER O H , THEY ' LL BE COOL AND EXACT . A ND
UNDERNEATH they'll be revolted, and immovably English. Just like
DYSART Well, what am I? Polynesian?
HESTHER You know exactly what I mean! ... (pause) Please,
Martin. It's vital. You're this boy's only chance.
DYSART Why? What's he done? Dosed some little girl's Pepsi
with Spanish Fly? What could possibly throw your bench into two-
HESTHER He blinded six horses with a metal spike.
A long pause.
DYSART All at once, or over a period?
HESTHER All on the same night.
HESTHER In a riding stable near Winchester. He worked there
DYSART How old?
DYSART What did he say in Court?
HESTHER Nothing. He just sang.
HESTHER Any time anyone asked him anything.
Please take him, Martin. It's the last favour I'll ever ask you.
DYSART No, it's not.
HESTHER No, it's not - and he's probably abominable. All I
know is, he needs you badly. Because there really is nobody within
a hundred miles of your desk who can handle him. And perhaps
understand what this is about. Also ...
HESTHER There's something very special about him.
DYSART In what way?
DYSART You and your vibrations.
HESTHER They're quite startling. You'll see.
DYSART When does he get here?
HESTHER Tomorrow morning. Luckily there was a bed in
Neville Ward. I know this is an awful imposition, Martin. Frankly I
didn't know what else to do.
DYSART Can you come in and see me on Friday?
HESTHER Bless you!
DYSART If you come after work I can give you a drink. Will 6.30
be all right?
HESTHER You're a dear. You really are.
DYSART Famous for it.
DYSART By the way, what's his name?
HESTHER Alan Strang.
She leaves and returns to her seat.
DYSART (to audience) What did I expect of him? Very little, I
promise you. One more dented little face. One more adolescent
freak. The usual unusual. One great thing about being in the
adjustment business: you're never short of customers.
Nurse comes down the tunnel, followed by Alan. She enters the square.
NURSE Alan Strang, Doctor.
The boy comes in.
DYSART Hallo. My name's Martin Dysart. I'm pleased to meet
He puts out his hand. Alan does not respond in any way.
That'll be all, Nurse, thank you.
Nurse goes out and back to her place. Dysart sits, opening a file.
So: did you have a good journey? I hope they gave you lunch at
least. Not that there's much to choose between a British Rail meal
and one here.
Alan stands staring at him.
DYSART Won't you sit down?
Pause. He does not. Dysart consults his file.
Is this your full name? Alan Strang?
And you're seventeen. Is that right? Seventeen? ... Well?
ALAN (singing low) Double your pleasure
Double your fun
With Doublemint, Doublemint
DYSART (unperturbed) Now, let's see. You work in an electrical
shop during the week. You live with your parents, and your father's
a printer. What sort of things does he print?
ALAN (singing louder) Double your pleasure
Double your fun
With Doublemint, Doublemint
DYSART I mean does he do leaflets and calendars? Things like
The boy approaches him, hostile.
ALAN (singing) Try the taste of Martini
The most beautiful drink in the world.
It's the right one -
The bright one -
DYSART I wish you'd sit down, if you're going to sing. Don't you
think you'd be more comfortable?
ALAN (singing) There's only one T in Typhoo!
In packets and in teabags too.
Any way you make it, you'll find it's true:
There's only one T in Typhoo!
DYSART (appreciatively) Now that's a good song. I like it better
than the other two. Can I hear that one again?
Alan starts away from him, and sits on the upstage bench.
ALAN (singing) Double your pleasure
Double your fun
With Doublemint, Doublemint
DYSART (smiling) You know I was wrong. I really do think that
one's better. It's got such a catchy tune. Please do that one again.
Silence. The boy glares at him.
I'm going to put you in a private bedroom for a little while. There
are one or two available, and they're rather more pleasant than
being in a ward. Will you please come and see me tomorrow? ...
(He rises) By the way, which parent is it who won't allow you to
watch television? Mother or father? Or is it both? (calling out of the
Alan stares at him. Nurse comes in.
NURSE Yes, Doctor?
DYSART Take Strang here to Number Three, will you? He's
moving in there for a while.
NURSE Very good, Doctor.
DYSART (to Alan) You'll like that room. It's nice.
41The boy sits staring at Dysart. Dysart returns the stare.
NURSE Come along, young man. This way ... I said this way,
Reluctantly Alan rises and goes to Nurse, passing dangerously close to Dysart,
and out through the left door. Dysart looks after him, fascinated.
Nurse and patient move on to the circle, and walk downstage to the bench
where the doctor first sat, which is to serve also as Alan's bed.
NURSE Well now: isn't this nice? You're lucky to be in here, you
know, rather than the ward. That ward's a noisy old place.
ALAN (singing) Let's go where you wanna go - Texaco!
NURSE (contemplating him) I hope you're not going to make a
nuisance of yourself. You'll have a much better time of it here, you
know, if you behave yourself.
ALAN F UCK OFF .
NURSE (tight) That's the bell there. The lav's down the corridor.
She leaves him, and goes back to her place. Alan lies down.
Dysart stands in the middle of the square and addresses the audience. He is
DYSART That night, I had this very explicit dream. In it I'm a
chief priest in Homeric Greece. I'm wearing a wide gold mask, all
noble and bearded, like the so-called Mask of Agamemnon found
at Mycenae. I'm standing by a thick round stone and holding a
sharp knife. In fact, I'm officiating at some immensely important
ritual sacrifice, on which depends the fate of the crops or of a
military expedition. The sacrifice is a herd of children: about five
hundred boys and girls. I can see them stretching away in a long
queue, right across the plain of Argos. I know it's Argos because of
the red soil. On either side of me stand two assistant priests,
wearing masks as well: lumpy, pop-eyed masks, such as also were
found at Mycenae. They are enormously strong, these other priests,
and absolutely tireless. As each child steps forward, they grab it
from behind and throw it over the stone. Then, with a surgical skill
which amazes even me, I fit in the knife and slice elegantly down to
the navel, just like a seamstress following a pattern. I part the flaps,
sever the inner tubes, yank them out and throw them hot and
steaming on to the floor. The other two then study the pattern they
make, as if they were reading hieroglyphics. It's obvious to me that
I'm tops as chief priest. It's this unique talent for carving that has
got me where I am. The only thing is, unknown to them, I've
started to feel distinctly nauseous. And with each victim, it's getting
worse. My face is going green behind the mask. Of course, I
redouble my efforts to look professional - cutting and snipping for
all I'm worth: mainly because I know that if ever those two
assistants so much as glimpse my distress - and the implied doubt
that this repetitive and smelly work is doing any social good at all -
I will be the next across the stone. And then, of course - the damn
mask begins to slip. The priests both turn and look at it - it slips
some more - they see the green sweat running down my face - their
gold pop-eyes suddenly fill up with blood - they tear the knife out
of my hand ... and I wake up.
Hesther enters the square. Light grows warmer.
HESTHER That's the most indulgent thing I ever heard.
DYSART You think?
HESTHER Please don't be ridiculous. You've done the most
superb work with children. You must know that.
DYSART Yes, but do the children?
DYSART I'm sorry.
HESTHER So you should be.
DYSART I don't know why you listen. It's just professional
menopause. Everyone gets it sooner or later. Except you.
HESTHER Oh, of course. I feel totally fit to be a magistrate all
DYSART No, you don't - but then that's you feeling unworthy to
fill a job. I feel the job is unworthy to fill me.
HESTHER Do you seriously?
DYSART M ORE AND MORE . I' D LIKE TO SPEND THE NEXT TEN
YEARS wandering very slowly around the real Greece ... Anyway, all
this dream nonsense is your fault.
DYSART I T ' S THAT LAD OF YOURS WHO STARTED IT OFF . D O
YOU KNOW it's his face I saw on every victim across the stone?
DYSART H E HAS THE STRANGEST STARE I EVER MET .
DYSART I T ' S EXACTLY LIKE BEING ACCUSED . V IOLENTLY
ACCUSED . B UT what of? ... Treating him is going to be unsettling.
Especially in my present state. His singing was direct enough. His
speech is more so.
HESTHER (surprised) He's talking to you, then?
DYSART Oh yes. It took him two more days of commercials, and
then he snapped. Just like that - I suspect it has something to do
with his nightmares.
Nurse walks briskly round the circle, a blanket over her arm, a clipboard of
notes in her hand.
HESTHER He has nightmares?
DYSART Bad ones.
NURSE We had to give him a sedative or two, Doctor. Last night
it was exactly the same.
DYSART (to Nurse) What does he do? Call out?
NURSE (to desk) A lot of screaming, Doctor.
DYSART (to Nurse) Screaming?
NURSE One word in particular.
DYSART (to Nurse) You mean a special word?
NURSE Over and over again, (consulting clipboard) It sounds like
NURSE Yes, Doctor. Ek ... 'Ek!' he goes. 'Ek!'
HESTER How weird.
NURSE When I woke him up he clung to me like he was going to
break my arm.
She stops at Alan's bed. He is sitting up. She puts the blanket over him, and
returns to her place.
DYSART And then he burst in - just like that - without knocking
or anything. Fortunately, I didn't have a patient with me.
ALAN (jumping up) Dad!
DYSART The answer to a question I'd asked him two days before.
Spat out with the same anger as he sang the commercials.
HESTHER Dad what?
ALAN Who hates telly.
He lies downstage on the circle, as if watching television.
HESTHER You mean his dad forbids him to watch?
ALAN It's a dangerous drug.
HESTHER Oh, really!
Frank stands up and enters the scene downstage on the circle. A man in his
FRANK (to Alan) It may not look like that, but that's what it is.
Absolutely fatal mentally, if you receive my meaning.
Dora follows him on. She is also middle-aged.
DORA That's a little extreme, dear, isn't it?
FRANK Y OU SIT IN FRONT OF THAT THING LONG ENOUGH ,
YOU ' LL BECOME STUPID FOR LIFE - LIKE MOST OF THE
POPULATION . ( TO A LAN ) T HE THING IS , IT ' S A SWIZ . I T SEEMS TO
BE OFFERING YOU SOMETHING , BUT ACTUALLY IT ' S TAKING
SOMETHING AWAY . Y OUR INTELLIGENCE AND YOUR
CONCENTRATION , EVERY MINUTE YOU WATCH IT . T HAT ' S A TRUE
SWIZ , DO YOU SEE ?
Seated on the floor, Alan shrugs.
I don't want to sound like a spoilsport, old chum - but there really
is no substitute for reading. What's the matter: don't you like it?
ALAN I T ' S ALL RIGHT .
FRANK I KNOW YOU THINK IT ' S NONE OF MY BEESWAX , BUT IT
REALLY IS YOU KNOW ... A CTUALLY , IT ' S A DISGRACE WHEN YOU
COME TO THINK OF IT . Y OU THE SON OF A PRINTER , AND NEVER
OPENING A BOOK ! I F ALL THE WORLD WAS LIKE YOU , I' D BE OUT
OF A JOB , IF YOU RECEIVE MY MEANING !
DORA A LL THE SAME , TIMES CHANGE , F RANK .
FRANK (reasonably) They change if you let them change, Dora.
Please return that set in the morning.
ALAN ( CRYING OUT ) N O !
DORA F RANK ! N O !
FRANK I'm sorry, Dora, but I'm not having that thing in the
house a moment longer. I told you I didn't want it to begin with.
DORA But, dear, everyone watches television these days!
FRANK Yes, and what do they watch? Mindless violence!
Mindless jokes! Every five minutes some laughing idiot selling you
something you don't want, just to bolster up the economic system.
(to Alan) I'm sorry, old chum.
He leaves the scene and sits again in his place.
HESTHER He's a Communist, then?
DYSART Old-type Socialist, I'd say. Relentlessly self-improving.
HESTHER They're both older than you'd expect.
DYSART So I gather.
DORA (looking after Frank) Really, dear, you are very extreme!
She leaves the scene too, and again sits beside her husband.
HESTHER She's an ex-school teacher, isn't she?
DYSART Yes. The boy's proud of that. We got on to it this
ALAN (belligerently, standing up) She knows more than you.
Hesther crosses and sits by Dysart. During the following, the boy walks round
the circle, speaking to Dysart but not looking at him. Dysart replies in the
DYSART (to Alan) Does she?
ALAN I bet I do too. I bet I know more history than you.
DYSART (to Alan) Well, I bet you don't.
ALAN All right: who was the Hammer of the Scots?
DYSART (to Alan) I don't know: who?
ALAN King Edward the First. Who never smiled again?
DYSART (to Alan) I don't know: who?
ALAN You don't know anything, do you? It was Henry the First. I
know all the Kings.
DYSART (to Alan) And who's your favourite?
DYSART (to Alan) Why?
ALAN Because he put out the eyes of that smarty little -
(sensing he has said something wrong) Well, he didn't really. He was
prevented, because the gaoler was merciful!
HESTHER Oh dear.
ALAN He was prevented!
DYSART Something odder was to follow.
ALAN Who said 'Religion is the opium of the people'?
HESTHER G OOD L ORD !
DYSART The odd thing was, he said it with a sort of guilty
snigger. The sentence is obviously associated with some kind of
HESTHER What did you say?
DYSART I gave him the right answer, (to Alan) Karl Marx.
DYSART (to Alan) Then who?
ALAN Mind your own beeswax.
DYSART It's probably his dad. He may say it to provoke his wife.
HESTHER And you mean she's religious?
DYSART She could be. I tried to discover - none too successfully.
ALAN Mind your own beeswax!
Alan goes back to bed and lies down in the dark.
DYSART However, I shall find out on Sunday.
HESTHER What do you mean?
DYSART (getting up) I want to have a look at his home, so I invited
HESTHER Did you?
DYSART If there's any tension over religion, it should be evident
on a Sabbath evening! I'll let you know.
He kisses her cheek and they part, both leaving the square. Hesther sits in her
place again; Dysart walks round the circle, and greets Dora who stands waiting
for him downstage.
DYSART (shaking hands) Mrs Strang.
DORA Mr Strang's still at the Press, I'm afraid. He should be
home in a minute.
DYSART He works Sundays as well?
DORA Oh, yes. He doesn't set much store by Sundays.
DYSART Perhaps you and I could have a little talk before he
DORA Certainly. Won't you come into the living room?
She leads the way into the square. She is very nervous.
She motions him to sit, then holds her hands tightly together.
DYSART Mrs Strang, have you any idea how this thing could have
DORA I can't imagine, Doctor. It's all so unbelievable! ... Alan's
always been such a gentle boy. He loves animals! Especially horses.
DORA Yes. He even has a photograph of one up in his bedroom.
A beautiful white one, looking over a gate. His father gave it to him
a few years ago, off a calendar he'd printed - and he's never taken it
down ... And when he was seven or eight, I used to have to read
him the same book over and over, all about a horse.
DORA Yes: it was called Prince, and no one could ride him.
Alan calls from his bed, not looking at his mother.
ALAN (excited, younger voice) Why not? ... Why not? ... Say it! In his
DORA He loved the idea of animals talking.
DYSART Did he?
ALAN Say it! Say it! ... Use his voice!
DORA ('proud' voice) 'Because I am faithful!'
'My name is Prince, and I'm a Prince among horses! Only my
young Master can ride me! Anyone else - I'll throw off!'
Alan giggles louder.
And then I remember I used to tell him a funny thing about falling
off horses. Did you know that when Christian cavalry first
appeared in the New World, the pagans thought horse and rider
was one person?
ALAN (sitting up, amazed) One person?
DORA Actually, they thought it must be a god.
ALAN A god!
DORA It was only when one rider fell off, they realized the truth.
DYSART That's fascinating. I never heard that before ... Can you
remember anything else like that you may have told him about
DORA Well, not really. They're in the Bible, of course. 'He saith
among the trumpets, Ha, ha.'
DYSART Ha, ha?
DORA The Book of Job. Such a noble passage. You know -
(quoting) 'Hast thou given the horse strength?'
ALAN (responding) 'Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?'
DORA (to Alan) 'The glory of his nostrils is terrible!'
ALAN 'He swallows the ground with fierceness and rage!'
DORA 'He saith among the trumpets -'
ALAN (trumpeting) 'Ha! Ha!'
DORA (to Dysart) Isn't that splendid?
DYSART It certainly is.
ALAN (trumpeting) Ha! Ha!
DORA And then, of course, we saw an awful lot of Westerns on
the television. He couldn't have enough of those.
DYSART But surely you don't have a set, do you? I understood
Mr Strang doesn't approve.
DORA (conspiratorially) He doesn't ... I used to let him slip off in
the afternoons to a friend next door.
DYSART (smiling) You mean without his father's knowledge?
DORA W HAT THE EYE DOES NOT SEE , THE HEART DOES NOT
GRIEVE over, does it? Anyway, Westerns are harmless enough,
Frank stands up and enters the square. Alan lies back under the blanket.
(to Frank) Oh, hallo dear. This is Dr Dysart.
FRANK (shaking hands) How d'you do?
DYSART How d'you do?
DORA I was just telling the Doctor, Alan's always adored horses.
FRANK (tight) We assumed he did.
DORA You know he did, dear. Look how he liked that
photograph you gave him.
FRANK (startled) What about it?
DORA Nothing dear. Just that he pestered you to have it as soon
as he saw it. Do you remember? (to Dysart) We've always been a
horsey family. At least my side of it has. My grandfather used to
ride every morning on the downs behind Brighton, all dressed up
in bowler hat and jodhpurs! He used to look splendid. Indulging in
equitation, he called it.
Frank moves away from them and sits wearily.
ALAN (trying the word) Equitation ...
DORA I remember I told him how that came from equus, the Latin
word for horse. Alan was fascinated by that word, I know. I
suppose because he'd never come across one with two U's together
ALAN (savouring it) Equus!
DORA I always wanted the boy to ride himself. He'd have so
DYSART But surely he did?
DORA He didn't care for it. He was most definite about not
DYSART But he must have had to at the stables? I mean, it would
be part of the job.
DORA You'd have thought so, but no. He absolutely wouldn't,
would he, dear?
FRANK (dryly) It seems he was perfectly happy raking out manure.
DYSART Did he ever give a reason for this?
DORA No. I must say we both thought it most peculiar, but he
wouldn't discuss it. I mean, you'd have thought he'd be longing to
get out in the air after being cooped up all week in that dreadful
shop. Electrical and kitchenware! Isn't that an environment for a
sensitive boy, Doctor? ...
FRANK Dear, have you offered the doctor a cup of tea?
DORA Oh dear, no, I haven't! ... And you must be dying for one.
DYSART That would be nice.
DORA Of course it would ... Excuse me ...
She goes out - but lingers on the circle, eavesdropping near the right door. Alan
stretches out under his blanket and sleeps. Frank gets up.
FRANK My wife has romantic ideas, if you receive my meaning.
DYSART About her family?
FRANK She thinks she married beneath her. I daresay she did. I
don't understand these things myself.
DYSART Mr Strang, I'm fascinated by the fact that Alan wouldn't
FRANK Yes, well that's him. He's always been a weird lad, I have
to be honest. Can you imagine spending your weekends like that -
just cleaning out stalls - with all the things that he could have been
doing in the way of Further Education?
DYSART Except he's hardly a scholar.
FRANK How do we know? He's never really tried. His mother
indulged him. She doesn't care if he can hardly write his own name,
and she a school teacher that was. Just as long as he's happy, she
Dora wrings her hands in anguish. Frank sits again.
DYSART Would you say she was closer to him than you are?
FRANK They've always been thick as thieves. I can't say I entirely
approve - especially when I hear her whispering that Bible to him
hour after hour, up there in his room.
DYSART Your wife is religious?
FRANK Some might say excessively so. Mind you, that's her
business. But when it comes to dosing it down the boy's throat -
well, frankly, he's my son as well as hers. She doesn't see that. Of
course, that's the funny thing about religious people. They always
think their susceptibilities are more important than non-religious.
DYSART And you're non-religious, I take it?
FRANK I'm an atheist, and I don't mind admitting it. If you want
my opinion, it's the Bible that's responsible for all this.
FRANK Well, look at it yourself. A boy spends night after night
having this stuff read into him: an innocent man tortured to death -
thorns driven into his head - nails into his hands - a spear jammed
through his ribs. It can mark anyone for life, that kind of thing. I'm
not joking. The boy was absolutely fascinated by all that. He was
always mooning over religious pictures. I mean real kinky ones, if
you receive my meaning. I had to put a stop to it once or twice! ...
(pause) Bloody religion - it's our only real problem in this house, but
it's insuperable: I don't mind admitting it.
Unable to stand any more, Dora comes in again.
DORA (pleasantly) You must excuse my husband, Doctor. This one
subject is something of an obsession with him, isn't it, dear? You
FRANK Call it what you like. All that stuff to me is just bad sex.
DORA And what has that got to do with Alan?
FRANK Everything! ... (seriously) Everything, Dora!
DORA I don't understand. What are you saying?
He turns away from her.
DYSART (calmingly) Mr Strang, exactly how informed do you judge
your son to be about sex?
FRANK (tight) I don't know.
DYSART You didn't actually instruct him yourself?
FRANK Not in so many words, no.
DYSART Did you, Mrs Strang?
DORA Well, I spoke a little, yes. I had to. I've been a teacher,
Doctor, and I know what happens if you don't. They find out
through magazines and dirty books.
DYSART What sort of thing did you tell him? I'm sorry if this is
DORA I told him the biological facts. But I also told him what I
believed. That sex is not just a biological matter, but spiritual as
well. That if God willed, he would fall in love one day. That his
task was to prepare himself for the most important happening of
his life. And after that, if he was lucky, he might come to know a
higher love still ... I simply ... don't understand ... Alan! ...
She breaks down in sobs. Her husband gets up and goes to her.
FRANK (embarrassed) There now. There now, Dora. Come on!
DORA (with sudden desperation) All right - laugh! Laugh, as usual!
FRANK (kindly) No one's laughing, Dora.
She glares at him. He puts his arms round her shoulders. No one's
laughing, are they Doctor?
Tenderly, he leads his wife out of the square, and they resume their places on
Lights grow much dimmer.
A strange noise begins. Alan begins to murmur from his bed. He is having a
bad nightmare, moving his hands and body as if frantically straining to tug
something back. Dysart leaves the square as the boy's cries increase.
ALAN E K ! ... E K ! ... E K ! ...
Cries of Ek! on tape fill the theatre, from all around. Dysart reaches the foot of
Alan's bed as the boy gives a terrible cry -
- and wakes up. The sounds snap off. Alan and the Doctor stare at each other.
Then abruptly Dysart leaves the area and re-enters the square.
Lights grow brighter.
Dysart sits on his bench, left, and opens his file. Alan gets out of bed, leaves his
blanket, and comes in. He looks truculent.
DYSART Hallo. How are you this morning?
Alan stares at him.
Come on: sit down.
Alan crosses the stage and sits on the bench, opposite.
Sorry if I gave you a start last night. I was collecting some papers
from my office, and I thought I'd look in on you. Do you dream
ALAN D O YOU ?
DYSART It's my job to ask the questions. Yours to answer them.
ALAN Says who?
DYSART Says me. Do you dream often?
ALAN Do you?
DYSART Look - Alan.
ALAN I'll answer if you answer. In turns.
DYSART Very well. Only we have to speak the truth.
ALAN (mocking) Very well.
DYSART So. Do you dream often?
ALAN Yes. Do you?
DYSART Yes. Do you have a special dream?
ALAN No. Do you?
DYSART Yes. What was your dream about last night?
ALAN Can't remember. What's yours about?
DYSART I said the truth.
ALAN That is the truth. What's yours about? The special one.
DYSART Carving up children.
DYSART What is your first memory of a horse?
ALAN What d'you mean?
DYSART The first time one entered your life, in any way.
ALAN Can't remember.
DYSART Are you sure?
DYSART You have no recollection of the first time you noticed a
ALAN I told you. Now it's my turn. Are you married?
DYSART (controlling himself) I am.
ALAN Is she a doctor too?
DYSART It's my turn.
ALAN Yes, well what?
DYSART What is Ek?
You shouted it out last night in your sleep. I thought you might
like to talk about it.
ALAN (singing) Double Diamond works wonders,
Works wonders, works wonders!
DYSART Come on, now. You can do better than that.
ALAN (singing louder) Double Diamond works wonders,
DYSART All right. Good morning.
ALAN What d'you mean?
DYSART We're finished for today.
ALAN But I've only had ten minutes.
DYSART Too bad.
He picks up a file and studies it. Alan lingers.
Didn't you hear me? I said, Good morning.
ALAN That's not fair!
ALAN (savagely) The Government pays you twenty quid an hour to
see me. I know. I heard downstairs.
DYSART Well, go back there and hear some more.
ALAN That's not fair!
He springs up clenching his fists in a sudden violent rage.
You're a - you're a - You're a swiz! ... Bloody swiz! ... Fucking swiz!
DYSART Do I have to call Nurse?
ALAN She puts a finger on me, I'll bash her!
DYSART She'll bash you much harder, I can assure you. Now go
He reads his file. Alan stays where he is, emptily clenching his hands. He
A faint hum starts from the Chorus.
ALAN (sullenly) On a beach. ...
He steps out of the square, upstage, and begins to walk round the circle. Warm
light glows on it.
ALAN Where I saw a horse. Swizzy.
Lazily he kicks at the sand, and throws stones at the sea.
DYSART How old were you?
ALAN How should I know? ... Six.
DYSART Well, go on. What were you doing there?
He throws himself on the ground, downstage centre of the circle, and starts
scuffing with his hands.
DYSART A sandcastle?
ALAN Well, what else?
DYSART (warningly) And?
ALAN Suddenly I heard this noise. Coming up behind me.
A young Horseman issues in slow motion out of the tunnel. He carries a
riding crop with which he is urging on his invisible horse, down the right side of
The hum increases.
DYSART What noise?
ALAN Hooves. Splashing.
ALAN The tide was out and he was galloping.
DYSART Who was?
ALAN This fellow. Like a college chap. He was on a big horse -
urging him on. I thought he hadn't seen me. I called out: Hey!
The horseman goes into natural time, charging fast round the downstage
58corner of the square straight at Alan.
and they just swerved in time!
HORSEMAN (reining back) Whoa! ...Whoa there! Whoa! ...
Sorry! I didn't see you! ... Did I scare you?
ALAN N O !
HORSEMAN (looking down on him) That's a terrific castle!
ALAN What's his name?
HORSEMAN Trojan. You can stroke him, if you like. He won't
Shyly Alan stretches up on tip-toe, and pats an invisible shoulder.
(amused) You can hardly reach down there. Would you like to come
Alan nods, eyes wide.
All right. Come round this side. You always mount a horse from
the left. I'll give you a lift. O.K.?
Alan goes round on the other side.
Here we go, now. Just do nothing. Upsadaisy!
Alan set his foot on the Horseman's thigh, and is lifted by him up on to his
The hum from the Chorus becomes exultant. Then stops.
Good. Now all you do is hold onto his mane.
He holds up the crop, and Alan grips on to it.
Tight now. And grip with your knees. All right?
All set? ... Come on, then, Trojan. Let's go!
The Horseman walks slowly upstage round the circle, with Alan's legs tight
round his neck.
DYSART How was it? Was it wonderful?
Alan rides in silence.
Can't you remember?
HORSEMAN Do you want to go faster?
HORSEMAN O.K. All you have to do is say 'Come on, Trojan -
bear me away!' ... Say it, then!
ALAN Bear me away!
The Horseman starts to run with Alan round the circle.
DYSART You went fast?
DYSART Weren't you frightened?
HORSEMAN Come on now, Trojan! Bear us away! Hold on!
Come on now! ...
He runs faster. Alan begins to laugh. Then suddenly, as they reach again the
right downstage corner, Frank and Dora stand up in alarm.
DORA Alan, stop!
Frank runs round after them. Dora follows behind.
FRANK Hey, you! You! ...
HORSEMAN Whoa, boy! ... Whoa! ...
He reins the horse round, and wheels to face the parents. This all goes fast.
FRANK What do you imagine you are doing?
HORSEMAN (ironic) 'Imagine'?
FRANK What is my son doing up there?
Dora joins them, breathless.
DORA Is he all right, Frank? ... He's not hurt?
FRANK Don't you think you should ask permission before doing
a stupid thing like that?
HORSEMAN What's stupid?
ALAN It's lovely, dad!
DORA Alan, come down here!
HORSEMAN The boy's perfectly safe. Please don't be hysterical.
FRANK Don't you be la-di-da with me, young man! Come down
here, Alan. You heard what your mother said.
FRANK Come down at once. Right this moment.
ALAN N O . ... NO!
FRANK (in a jury) I said - this moment!
He pulls Alan from the Horseman's shoulders. The boy shrieks, and falls to
HORSEMAN Watch it!
She runs to her son, and kneels. The Horseman skitters.
HORSEMAN Are you mad? D'you want to terrify the horse?
DORA He's grazed his knee. Frank - the boy's hurt!
ALAN I'm not! I'm not!
FRANK What's your name?
HORSEMAN Jesse James.
DORA Frank, he's bleeding!
FRANK I intend to report you to the police for endangering the
lives of children.
HORSEMAN Go right ahead!
DORA Can you stand, dear?
ALAN Oh, stop it! ...
FRANK You're a public menace, d'you know that? How dare you
pick up children and put them on dangerous animals.
FRANK Of course dangerous. Look at his eyes. They're rolling.
HORSEMAN So are yours!
FRANK In my opinion that is a dangerous animal. In my
considered opinion you are both dangers to the safety of this
HORSEMAN And in my opinion, you're a stupid fart!
DORA Frank, leave it!
FRANK What did you say?
DORA I T ' S NOT IMPORTANT , F RANK - REALLY !
FRANK What did you say?
HORSEMAN Oh bugger off! Sorry, chum! Come on, Trojan!
He urges his horse straight at them, then wheels it and gallops off round the
right side of the circle and away up the tunnel, out of sight. The parents cry out,
as they are covered with sand and water. Frank runs after him, and round the
left side of the circle, with his wife following after.
ALAN Splash, splash, splash! All three of us got covered with
water! Dad got absolutely soaked!
FRANK (shouting after the Horseman) Hooligan! Filthy hooligan!
ALAN I wanted to laugh!
FRANK Upper class riff-raff! That's all they are, people who go
riding! That's what they want - trample on ordinary people!
DORA Don't be absurd, Frank.
FRANK It's why they do it. It's why they bloody do it!
DORA (amused) Look at you. You're covered!
FRANK Not as much as you. There's sand all over your hair!
She starts to laugh.
(shouting) Hooligan! Bloody hooligan!
She starts to laugh more. He tries to brush the sand out of her hair.
What are you laughing at? It's not funny. It's not funny at all, Dora!
She goes off, right, still laughing. Alan edges into the square, still on the
It's just not funny! ...
Frank returns to his place on the beach, sulky.
ALAN And that's all I remember.
DYSART And a lot, too. Thank you ... You know, I've never been
on a horse in my life.
ALAN (not looking at him) Nor me.
DYSART You mean, after that?
DYSART But you must have done at the stables?
DYSART How come?
ALAN I didn't care to.
DYSART Did it have anything to do with falling off like that, all
those years ago?
ALAN (tight) I just didn't care to, that's all.
DYSART Do you think of that scene often?
ALAN I suppose.
DYSART Why, do you think?
ALAN 'Cos it's funny.
DYSART Is that all?
ALAN What else? My turn .... I told you a secret: now you tell me
DYSART All right. I have patients who've got things to tell me,
only they're ashamed to say them to my face. What do you think I
do about that?
DYSART I give them this little tape recorder.
He takes a small tape recorder and microphone from his pocket.
They go off to another room, and send me the tape through Nurse.
They don't have to listen to it with me.
ALAN That's stupid.
DYSART All you do is press this button, and speak into this.
It's very simple. Anyway, your time's up for today. I'll see you
ALAN (getting up) Maybe.
ALAN If I feel like it.
He is about to go out. Then suddenly he returns to Dysart and takes the
machine from him.
He leaves the square and goes back to his bed.
DORA (calling out) Doctor!
Dora re-enters and comes straight on to the square from the right. She wears an
overcoat, and is nervously carrying a shopping bag.
DYSART That same evening, his mother appeared.
DORA Hallo, Doctor.
DYSART Mrs Strang!
DORA I've been shopping in the neighbourhood. I thought I
might just look in.
DYSART Did you want to see Alan?
DORA (uncomfortably) No, no ... Not just at the moment. Actually,
it's more you I wanted to see.
DORA You see, there's something Mr Strang and I thought you
ought to know. We discussed it, and it might just be important.
DYSART Well, come and sit down.
DORA I can't stay more than a moment. I'm late as it is. Mr Strang
will be wanting his dinner.
DYSART Ah. (encouragingly) So, what was it you wanted to tell me?
She sits on the upstage bench.
DORA Well, do you remember that photograph I mentioned to
you. The one Mr Strang gave Alan to decorate his bedroom a few
DYSART Yes. A horse looking over a gate, wasn't it?
DORA That's right. Well, actually, it took the place of another
kind of picture altogether.
DYSART What kind?
DORA It was a reproduction of Our Lord on his way to Calvary.
Alan found it in Reeds Art Shop, and fell absolutely in love with it.
He insisted on buying it with his pocket money, and hanging it at
the foot of his bed where he could see it last thing at night. My
husband was very displeased.
DYSART Because it was religious?
DORA In all fairness I must admit it was a little extreme. The
Christ was loaded down with chains, and the centurions were really
laying on the stripes. It certainly would not have been my choice,
but I don't believe in interfering too much with children, so I said
DYSART But Mr Strang did?
DORA He stood it for a while, but one day we had one of our tiffs
about religion, and he went straight upstairs, tore it off the boy's
wall and threw it in the dustbin. Alan went quite hysterical. He
cried for days without stopping - and he was not a crier, you know.
DYSART But he recovered when he was given the photograph of
the horse in its place?
DORA He certainly seemed to. At least, he hung it in exactly the
same position, and we had no more of that awful weeping.
DYSART Thank you, Mrs Strang. That is interesting ... Exactly
how long ago was that? Can you remember?
DORA It must be five years ago, Doctor. Alan would have been
about twelve. How is he, by the way?
DYSART Bearing up.
DORA Please give him my love.
DYSART You can see him any time you want, you know.
DORA Perhaps if I could come one afternoon without Mr Strang.
He and Alan don't exactly get on at the moment, as you can
DYSART Whatever you decide, Mrs Strang ... Oh, one thing.
DYSART Could you describe that photograph of the horse in a
little more detail for me? I presume it's still in his bedroom?
DORA O H , YES . I T ' S A MOST REMARKABLE PICTURE , REALLY .
Y OU VERY RARELY SEE A HORSE TAKEN FROM THAT ANGLE -
ABSOLUTELY HEAD ON . T HAT ' S WHAT MAKES IT SO INTERESTING .
DYSART Why? What does it look like?
DORA Well, it's most extraordinary. It comes out all eyes.
DYSART Staring straight at you?
DORA Yes, that's right ...
An uncomfortable pause.
I'll come and see him one day very soon, Doctor. Goodbye.
She leaves, and resumes her place by her husband.
DYSART (to audience) It was then - that moment - I felt real alarm.
What was it? The shadow of a giant head across my desk? ... At any
rate, the feeling got worse with the stable-owner's visit.
Dalton comes in to the square: heavy-set: mid-fifties.
DALTON Dr Dysart?
DYSART Mr Dalton. It's very good of you to come.
DALTON It is, actually. In my opinion the boy should be in
prison. Not in a hospital at the tax-payers' expense.
DYSART Please sit down.
66This must have been a terrible experience for you.
DALTON Terrible? I don't think I'll ever get over it. Jill's had a
DALTON The girl who worked for me. Of course, she feels
responsible in a way. Being the one who introduced him in the first
DYSART He was introduced to the stable by a girl? DALTON
Jill Mason. He met her somewhere, and asked for a job. She told
him to come and see me. I wish to Christ she never had.
DYSART But when he first appeared he didn't seem in any way
peculiar? DALTON No, he was bloody good. He'd spend hours
with the horses cleaning and grooming them, way over the call of
duty. I thought he was a real find.
DYSART Apparently, during the whole time he worked for you,
he never actually rode.
DALTON That's true.
DYSART Wasn't that peculiar?
DALTON Very ... If he didn't.
DYSART What do you mean?
DALTON Because on and off, that whole year, I had the feeling
the horses were being taken out at night.
DYSART At night?
DALTON There were just odd things I noticed. I mean too often
one or other of them would be sweaty first thing in the morning,
when it wasn't sick. Very sweaty, too. And its stall wouldn't be near
as mucky as it should be if it had been in all night. I never paid it
much mind at the time. It was only when I realised I'd been hiring
a loony, I came to wonder if he hadn't been riding all the time,
behind our backs.
DYSART But wouldn't you have noticed if things had been
DALTON Nothing ever was. Still, he's a neat worker. That
wouldn't prove anything.
DYSART Aren't the stables locked at night?
DYSART And someone sleeps on the premises?
DALTON Me and my son.
DYSART Two people?
DALTON I'm sorry, Doctor. It's obviously just my fancy. I tell
you, this thing has shaken me so bad, I'm liable to believe anything.
If there's nothing else, I'll be going.
DYSART Look: even if you were right, why should anyone do
that? Why would any boy prefer to ride by himself at night, when
he could go off with others during the day.
DALTON Are you asking me? He's a loony, isn't he?
Dalton leaves the square and sits again in his place. Dysart watches him go.
ALAN It was sexy.
DYSART His tape arrived that evening.
Alan is sitting on his bed holding the tape-recorder. Nurse approaches briskly,
takes the machine from him - gives it to Dysart in the square - and leaves
again, resuming her seat. Dysart switches on the tape.
ALAN That's what you want to know, isn't it? All right: it was. I'm
talking about the beach. That time when I was a kid. What I told
you about ...
Pause. He is in great emotional difficulty.
Dysart sits on the left bench listening, file in hand. Alan rises and stands
directly behind him, but on the circle, as if recording the ensuing speech. He
never, of course, looks directly at the Doctor.
was pushed forward on the horse. There was sweat on my legs
from his neck. The fellow held me tight, and let me turn the horse
which way I wanted. All that power going any way you wanted ...
His sides were all warm, and the smell ... Then suddenly I was on
the ground, where Dad pulled me. I could have bashed him ...
Something else. When the horse first appeared, I looked up into
his mouth. It was huge. There was this chain in it. The fellow
pulled it, and cream dripped out. I said 'Does it hurt?' And he said -
the horse said - said -
He stops, in anguish. Dysart makes a note in his file.
(desperately) It was always the same, after that. Every time I heard
one clop by, I had to run and see. Up a country lane or anywhere.
They sort of pulled me. I couldn't take my eyes off them. Just to
watch their skins. The way their necks twist, and sweat shines in
the folds ... (pause) I can't remember when it started. Mum reading
to me about Prince who no one could ride, except one boy. Or the
white horse in Revelations. 'He that sat upon him was called
Faithful and True. His eyes were as flames of fire, and he had a
name written that no man knew but himself ... Words like reins.
Stirrup. Flanks ... 'Dashing his spurs against his charger's flanks!' ...
Even the words made me feel - ... Years, I never told anyone.
Mum wouldn't understand. She likes 'Equitation'. Bowler hats and
jodhpurs! 'My grandfather dressed for the horse,' she says. What
does that mean? The horse isn't dressed. It's the most naked thing
you ever saw! More than a dog or a cat or anything. Even the most
broken down old nag has got its life! To put a bowler on it is
filthy! ... Putting them through their paces! Bloody gymkhanas! ...
No one understands! ... Except cowboys. They do. I wish I was a
cowboy. They're free. They just swing up and then it's miles of
grass ... I bet all cowboys are orphans! ... I bet they are!
NURSE Mr Strang to see you, Doctor.
DYSART (in surprise) Mr Strang? Show him up, please.
ALAN No one ever says to cowboys 'Receive my meaning'! They
wouldn't dare. Or 'God' all the time, (mimicking his mother) 'God sees
you, Alan. God's got eyes everywhere -'
He stops abruptly.
I'm not doing any more! ... I hate this! ... You can whistle for
anymore. I've had it!
He returns angrily to his bed, throwing the blanket over him. Dysart switches
off the tape.
Frank Strang comes into the square, his hat in his hand. He is nervous and
DYSART (welcoming) Hallo, Mr Strang.
FRANK I was just passing. I hope it's not too late.
DYSART Of course not. I'm delighted to see you.
FRANK My wife doesn't know I'm here. I'd be grateful to you if
you didn't enlighten her, if you receive my meaning.
DYSART Everything that happens in this room is confidential, Mr
FRANK I hope so ... I hope so ...
DYSART (gently) Do you have something to tell me?
FRANK As a matter of fact I have. Yes.
DYSART Your wife told me about the photograph.
FRANK I know, it's not that! It's about that, but it's - worse. ... I
wanted to tell you the other night, but I couldn't in front of Dora.
Maybe I should have. It might show her where all that stuff leads
to, she drills into the boy behind my back.
DYSART What kind of thing is it?
FRANK Something I witnessed.
FRANK At home. About eighteen months ago.
DYSART Go on.
FRANK It was late. I'd gone upstairs to fetch something. The boy
had been in bed hours, or so I thought.
DYSART Go on.
FRANK As I came along the passage I saw the door of his
bedroom was ajar. I'm sure he didn't know it was. From inside I
heard the sound of this chanting.
FRANK Like the Bible. One of those lists his mother's always
reading to him.
DYSART What kind of list?
FRANK Those Begats. So-and-so begat, you know. Genealogy.
DYSART Can you remember what Alan's list sounded like?
FRANK Well, the sort of thing. I stood there absolutely astonished.
The first word I heard was ...
ALAN (rising and chanting) Prince!
FRANK Prince begat Prance. That sort of nonsense.
Alan moves slowly to the centre of the circle, downstage.
ALAN And Prance begat Prankus! And Prankus begat Flankus!
FRANK I looked through the door, and he was standing in the
moonlight in his pyjamas, right in front of that big photograph.
DYSART The horse with the huge eyes?
ALAN Flankus begat Spankus. And Spankus begat Spunkus the
Great, who lived three score years!
FRANK It was all like that. I can't remember the exact names, of
course. Then suddenly he knelt down.
DYSART In front of the photograph?
FRANK Yes. Right there at the foot of his bed.
ALAN (kneeling) And Legwus begat Neckwus. And Neckwus begat
Fleckwus, the King of Spit. And Fleckwus spoke out of his
He bows himself to the ground.
FRANK I'm sure that was the word. I've never forgotten it.
Chinkle-chankle. Alan raises his head and extends his hands up in glory.
ALAN And he said 'Behold - I give you Equus, my only begotten
FRANK Yes. No doubt of that. He repeated that word several
times. 'Equus my only begotten son.'
ALAN (reverently) Ek .... wus!
DYSART (suddenly understanding: almost 'aside') Ek. ... Ek___
FRANK (embarrassed) And then ...
DYSART Yes: what?
FRANK He took a piece of string out of his pocket. Made up into
a noose. And put it in his mouth.
Alan bridles himself with invisible string, and pulls it back.
And then with his other hand he picked up a coat hanger. A
wooden coat hanger, and - and -
DYSART Began to beat himself?
Alan, in mime, begins to thrash himself, increasing the strokes in speed and
FRANK You see why I couldn't tell his mother .... Religion.
Religion's at the bottom of all this!
DYSART What did you do?
FRANK Nothing. I coughed - and went back downstairs.
The boy starts guiltily - tears the string from his mouth - and scrambles back to
DYSART Did you ever speak to him about it later? Even
FRANK (unhappily) I can't speak of things like that, Doctor. It's
not in my nature.
DYSART (kindly) No. I see that.
FRANK But I thought you ought to know. So I came.
DYSART (warmly) Yes. I'm very grateful to you. Thank you. Pause.
FRANK Well, that's it ...
DYSART Is there anything else?
FRANK (even more embarrassed) There is actually. One thing.
DYSART What's that?
FRANK On the night that he did it - that awful thing in the stable
FRANK That very night, he was out with a girl.
DYSART How d'you know that?
FRANK I just know.
DYSART (puzzled) Did he tell you?
FRANK I can't say any more.
DYSART I don't quite understand.
FRANK Everything said in here is confidential, you said.
FRANK Then ask him. Ask him about taking a girl out, that very
night he did it ... (abruptly) Goodbye, Doctor.
He goes. Dysart looks after him. Frank resumes his seat.
Alan gets up and enters the square.
DYSART Alan! Come in. Sit down, (pleasantly) What did you do
ALAN Watched telly.
DYSART Any good?
ALAN All right.
DYSART Thanks for the tape. It was excellent.
ALAN I'm not making any more.
DYSART One thing I didn't quite understand. You began to say
something about the horse on the beach talking to you.
ALAN That's stupid. Horses don't talk.
DYSART So I believe.
ALAN I don't know what you mean.
DYSART Never mind. Tell me something else. Who introduced
you to the stable to begin with?
ALAN Someone I met.
DYSART The shop where you worked?
DYSART That's a funny place for you to be. Whose idea was that?
DYSART I'd thought he'd have wanted you to work with him.
ALAN I haven't the aptitude. And printing's a failing trade. If you
receive my meaning.
DYSART (amused) I see ... What did your mother think?
ALAN Shops are common.
DYSART And you?
ALAN I loved it.
ALAN (sarcastic) Why not? You get to spend every minute with
electrical things. It's fun.
Nurse, Dalton and the actors playing horses call out to him as Customers,
seated where they are. Their voices are aggressive and demanding. There is a
constant background mumbling, made up of trade names, out of which can
clearly be distinguished the italicized words, which are shouted out.
ALAN (to Dysart) Of course it might just drive you off your
CUSTOMER I want to buy a hot-plate. I'm told the Philco is a
ALAN I think it is, madam.
CUSTOMER Remington ladies' shavers?
ALAN I'm not sure, madam.
CUSTOMER Robex tableware?
CUSTOMER Pifco automatic toothbrushes?
ALAN I'll find out, sir.
CUSTOMER I want a Philco transistor radio!
CUSTOMER This isn't a Remington! I wanted a Remington!
CUSTOMER Are you a dealer for Hoover?
CUSTOMER I wanted the heat retaining Pifco!
Jill comes into the square: a girl in her early twenties, pretty and middle class.
She wears a sweater and jeans. The mumbling stops.
JILL Have you any blades for a clipping machine?
JILL To clip horses.
Pause. He stares at her, open-mouthed.
What's the matter?
ALAN You work at Dalton's stables. I've seen you.
During the following, he mimes putting away a pile of boxes on a shelf in the
JILL I've seen you too, haven't I? You're the boy who's always
staring into the yard around lunch-time.
JILL You're there most days.
ALAN Not me.
JILL (amused) Of course it's you. Mr Dalton was only saying the
other day: 'Who's that boy keeps staring in at the door?'
Are you looking for a job or something?
ALAN (eagerly) Is there one?
JILL I don't know.
ALAN I can only do weekends.
JILL That's when most people ride. We can always use extra
hands. It'd mainly be mucking out.
ALAN I don't mind.
JILL Can you ride?
ALAN No ... No ... I don't want to.
She looks at him curiously.
JILL Come up on Saturday. I'll introduce you to Mr Dalton.
She leaves the square.
DYSART When was this? About a year ago?
ALAN I suppose.
DYSART And she did?
Briskly he moves the three benches to form three stalls in the stable.
Rich light falls on the square.
An exultant humming from the Chorus.
Tramping is heard. Three actors playing horses rise from their places. Together
they unhook three horse masks from the ladders to left and right, put them on
with rigid timing, and walk with swaying horse-motion into the square. Their
metal hooves stamp on the wood. Their masks turn and toss high above their
heads - as they will do sporadically throughout all horse scenes - making the
steel gleam in the light.
For a moment they seem to converge on the boy as he stands in the middle of the
stable, but then they swiftly turn and take up positions as if tethered by the
head, with their invisible rumps towards him, one by each bench.
Alan is sunk in this glowing world of horses. Lost in wonder, he starts almost
involuntarily to kneel on the floor in reverence - but is sharply interrupted by
the cheery voice of Dalton, coming into the stable, followed by Jill. The boy
straightens up guiltily.
DALTON First thing to learn is drill. Learn it and keep to it. I
want this place neat, dry and clean at all times. After you've
mucked out, Jill will show you some grooming. What we call
strapping a horse.
JILL I think Trooper's got a stone.
DALTON Yes? Let's see.
He crosses to the horse by the left bench, who is balancing one hoof on its tip.
He picks up the hoof.
You're right, (to Alan) See this? This V here. It's what's called a
frog. Sort of shock-absorber. Once you pierce that, it takes ages to
heal - so you want to watch for it. You clean it out with this. What
we call a hoof-pick.
He takes from his pocket an invisible pick.
Mind how you go with it. It's very sharp. Use it like this.
He quickly takes the stone out. See?
Alan nods, fascinated.
You'll soon get the hang of it. Jill will look after you. What she
doesn't know about stables, isn't worth knowing.
JILL (pleased) Oh yes, I'm sure!
DALTON ( HANDING A LAN THE PICK ) C AREFUL HOW YOU GO
WITH THAT .
The main rule is, anything you don't know: ask. Never pretend you
know something when you don't, (smiling) Actually, the main rule is:
enjoy yourself. All right?
ALAN Yes, sir.
DALTON Good lad. See you later.
He nods to them cheerfully, and leaves the square. Alan clearly puts the
invisible hoof-pick on the rail, downstage left.
JILL All right, let's start on some grooming. Why don't we begin
with him? He looks as if he needs it.
They approach Nugget, who is standing to the right. She pats him. Alan sits
and watches her.
This is Nugget. He's my favourite. He's as gentle as a baby, aren't
you? But terribly fast if you want him to be.
During the following, she mimes both the actions and the objects, which
she picks up from the right bench.
Now this is the dandy, and we start with that. Then you move on
to the body brush. This is the most important, and you use it with
this curry-comb. Now you always groom the same way: from the
ears downward. Don't be afraid to do it hard. The harder you do it,
the more the horse loves it. Push it right through the coat: like this.
The boy watches in fascination as she brushes the invisible body of Nugget,
scraping the dirt and hair off on to the invisible curry-comb. Now and then the
horse mask moves very slightly in pleasure.
Down towards the tail and right through the coat. See how he
loves it? I'm giving you a lovely massage, boy, aren't I? ... You try.
She hands him the brush. Gingerly he rises and approaches Nugget.
Embarrassed and excited, he copies her movements, inexpertly.
Keep it nice and easy. Never rush. Down towards the tail and right
through the coat. That's it. Again. Down towards the tail and right
through the coat.... Very good. Now you keep that up for fifteen
minutes and then do old Trooper. Will you?
A Ian nods.
You've got a feel for it. I can tell. It's going to be nice teaching
you. See you later.
She leaves the square and resumes her place. Alan is left alone with the horses.
They all stamp. He approaches Nugget again, and touches the horse's shoulder.
The mask turns sharply in his direction. The boy pauses, then moves his hand
gently over the outline of the neck and back. The mask is re-assured. It stares
ahead unmoving. Then Alan lifts his palm to his face and smells it deeply,
closing his eyes.
Dysart rises from his bench, and begins to walk slowly upstage round the circle.
DYSART Was that good? Touching them.
Alan gives a faint groan.
DYSART It must have been marvellous, being near them at last ...
Stroking them ... Making them fresh and glossy ... Tell me ...
Silence. Alan begins to brush Nugget.
How about the girl? Did you like her?
ALAN (tight) All right.
DYSART Just all right?
Alan changes his position, moving round Nugget's rump so that his back is to
the audience. He brushes harder. Dysart comes downstage around the circle,
and finally back to his bench.
Was she friendly?
DYSART Or stand-offish?
DYSART Well which?
DYSART Which was she?
Alan brushes harder.
Did you take her out? Come on now: tell me. Did, you have a date
DYSART (sitting) Tell me if you did.
The boy suddenly explodes in one of his rages.
ALAN (yelling) TELL ME!
All the masks toss at the noise.
ALAN Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me!
Alan storms out of the square, and downstage to where Dysart sits. He is
raging. During the ensuing, the horses leave by all three openings.
On and on, sitting there! Nosey Parker! That's all you are!
Bloody Nosey Parker! Just like Dad. On and on and bloody on!
Tell me, tell me, tell me! ... Answer this. Answer that.
Never stop! -
He marches round the circle and back into the square. Dysart rises and enters
it from the other side.
DYSART I'm sorry.
Alan slams about what is now the office again, replacing the benches to their
ALAN All right, it's my turn now. You tell me! Answer me!
DYSART We're not playing that game now.
ALAN We're playing what I say.
DYSART All right. What do you want to know?
ALAN Do you have dates?
DYSART I told you. I'm married.
Alan approaches him, very hostile.
ALAN I know. Her name's Margaret, She's a dentist! You see, I
found out! What made you go with her? Did you use to bite her
hands when she did you in the chair?
The boy sits next to him, close.
DYSART That's not very funny.
ALAN Do you have girls behind her back?
ALAN Then what? Do you fuck her?
DYSART That's enough now.
He rises and moves away.
ALAN Come on, tell me! Tell me, tell me!
DYSART I said that's enough now.
Alan rises too and walks around him.
ALAN I bet you don't. I bet you never touch her. Come on, tell
me. You've got no kids, have you? Is that because you don't fuck?
DYSART (sharp) Go to your room. Go on: quick march.
Pause. Alan moves away from him, insolently takes up a packet of Dysart's
cigarettes from the bench, and extracts one.
Give me those cigarettes.
The boy puts one in his mouth.
(exploding) Alan, give them to me!
Reluctantly Alan shoves the cigarette back in the packet, turns and hands it to
him. Now go!
Alan bolts out of the square, and back to his bed. Dysart, unnerved, addresses
Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! The boy's on the run, so he gets
defensive. What am I, then? ... Wicked little bastard - he knew
exactly what questions to try. He'd actually marched himself round
the hospital, making enquiries about my wife. Wicked and - of
course, perceptive. Ever since I made that crack about carving up
children, he's been aware of me in an absolutely specific way. Of
course, there's nothing novel in that. Advanced neurotics can be
dazzling at that game. They aim unswervingly at your area of
maximum vulnerability ... Which I suppose is as good a way as any
of describing Margaret.
He sits. Hesther enters the square. Light grows warmer.
HESTHER Now stop it.
DYSART Do I embarrass you?
HESTHER I suspect you're about to.
DYSART My wife doesn't understand me, Your Honour.
HESTHER Do you understand her?
DYSART No. Obviously I never did.
HESTHER I'm sorry. I've never liked to ask but I've always
imagined you weren't exactly compatible.
She moves to sit opposite.
DYSART We were. It actually worked for a bit. I mean for both of
us. We worked for each other. She actually for me through a kind
of briskness. A clear, red-headed, inaccessible briskness which kept
me keyed up for months. Mind you, if you're kinky for Northern
Hygienic, as I am, you can't find anything much more compelling
than a Scottish Lady Dentist.
HESTHER It's you who are wicked, you know!
DYSART Not at all: She got exactly the same from me. Antiseptic
proficiency. I was like that in those days. We suited each other
admirably. I see us in our wedding photo: Doctor and Doctor Mac
Brisk. We were brisk in our wooing, brisk in our wedding, brisk in
our disappointment. We turned from each other briskly into our
separate surgeries: and now there's damn all.
HESTHER You have no children, have you?
DYSART No, we didn't go in for them. Instead, she sits beside
our salmon-pink, glazed brick fireplace, and knits things for
orphans in a home she helps with. And I sit opposite, turning the
pages of art books on Ancient Greece. Occasionally, I still trail a
faint scent of my enthusiasm across her path. I pass her a picture
of the sacred acrobats of Crete leaping through the horns of
running bulls - and she'll say: 'Och, Martin, what an absurred thing
to be doing! The Highland Games, now there's normal sport!' Or
she'll observe, just after I've told her a story from the Iliad: 'You
know, when you come to think of it, Agamemnon and that lot
were nothing but a bunch of ruffians from the Gorbals, only with
fancy names!' (He rises) You get the picture. She's turned into a
Shrink. The familiar domestic monster. Margaret Dysart: the
HESTHER That's cruel, Martin.
DYSART Yes. Do you know what it's like for two people to live
in the same house as if they were in different parts of the world?
Mentally, she's always in some drizzly kirk of her own inheriting:
and I'm in some Doric temple - clouds tearing through pillars -
eagles bearing prophecies out of the sky. She finds all that
repulsive. All my wife has ever taken from the Mediterranean -
from that whole vast intuitive culture - are four bottles of Chianti
to make into lamps, and two china condiment donkeys labelled
Sally and Peppy.
(more intimately) I wish there was one person in my life I could
show. One instinctive, absolutely unbrisk person I could take to
Greece, and stand in front of certain shrines and sacred streams
and say 'Look! Life is only comprehensible through a thousand
local Gods. And not just the old dead ones with names like Zeus -
no, but living Geniuses of Place and Person! And not just Greece
but modern England! Spirits of certain trees, certain curves of brick
wall, certain chip shops, if you like, and slate roofs - just as of
certain frowns in people and slouches ... I'd say to them - 'Worship
as many as you can see - and more will appear!' ... If I had a son, I
bet you he'd come out exactly like his mother. Utterly worshipless.
Would you like a drink?
HESTHER No, thanks. Actually, I've got to be going. As usual ...
HESTHER Really. I've got an Everest of papers to get through
DYSART You never stop, do you?
HESTHER Do you?
DYSART This boy, with his stare. He's trying to save himself
HESTHER I'd say so.
DYSART What am I trying to do to him?
HESTHER Restore him, surely?
DYSART To what?
HESTHER A normal life.
HESTHER It still means something.
DYSART Does it?
HESTHER Of course.
DYSART You mean a normal boy has one head: a normal head
has two ears?
HEATHER You know I don't.
DYSART Then what else?
HESTHER (lightly) Oh, stop it.
DYSART No, what? You tell me.
HESTHER (rising: smiling) I won't be put on the stand like this,
Martin. You're really disgraceful! ... (Pause) You know what I mean
by a normal smile in a child's eyes, and one that isn't - even if I
can't exactly define it. Don't you?
HESTHER Then we have a duty to that, surely? Both of us.
DYSART Touché ... I'll talk to you.
DYSART You said you had to go.
HESTHER I do ... (she kisses his cheek). Thank you for what you're
doing ... You're going through a rotten patch at the moment. I'm
sorry ... I suppose one of the few things one can do is simply hold
on to priorities.
DYSART Like what?
HESTHER Oh - children before grown-ups. Things like that.
He contemplates her.
DYSART You're really quite splendid.
HESTHER Famous for it. Goodnight.
She leaves him.
DYSART (to himself - or to the audience) Normal! ... Normal!
Alan rises and enters the square. He is subdued.
DYSART Good afternoon.
DYSART I'm sorry about our row yesterday.
ALAN It was stupid.
DYSART It was.
ALAN What I said, I mean.
DYSART How are you sleeping?
You're not feeling well, are you?
ALAN All right.
DYSART Would you like to play a game? It could make you feel
ALAN What kind?
DYSART It's called Blink. You have to fix your eyes on
something: say, that little stain over there on the wall - and I tap
this pen on the desk. The first time I tap it, you close your eyes.
The next time you open them. And so on. Close, open, close,
open, till I say Stop.
ALAN How can that make you feel better?
DYSART It relaxes you. You'll feel as though you're talking to me
in your sleep.
ALAN It's stupid.
DYSART You don't have to do it, if you don't want to.
ALAN I didn't say I didn't want to.
ALAN I don't mind.
DYSART Good. Sit down and start watching that stain. Put your
hands by your sides, and open the fingers wide.
He opens the left bench and Alan sits on the end of it.
The thing is to feel comfortable, and relax absolutely ... Are you
looking at the stain?
DYSART Right. Now try and keep your mind as blank as possible.
ALAN That's not difficult.
DYSART Ssh. Stop talking ... On the first tap, close. On the
second, open. Are you ready?
Alan nods. Dysart taps his pen on the wooden rail. Alan shuts his eyes.
Dysart taps again. Alan opens them. The taps are evenly spaced. After four of
them the sound cuts out, and is replaced by a louder, metallic sound, on tape.
Dysart talks through this, to the audience - the light changes to cold - while the
boy sits in front of him, staring at the wall, opening and shutting his eyes.
The Normal is the good smile in a child's eyes - all right. It is also
the dead stare in a million adults. It both sustains and kills - like a
God. It is the Ordinary made beautiful: it is also the Average made
lethal. The Normal is the indispensable, murderous God of Health,
and I am his Priest. My tools are very delicate. My compassion is
honest. I have honestly assisted children in this room. I have talked
away terrors and relieved many agonies. But also - beyond question
- I have cut from them parts of individuality repugnant to this
God, in both his aspects. Parts sacred to rarer and more wonderful
Gods. And at what length ... sacrifices to Zeus took at the most,
surely, sixty seconds each. Sacrifices to the Normal can take as long
as sixty months.
The natural sound of the pencil resumes. Light changes back.
(to Alan) Now your eyes are feeling heavy. You want to sleep, don't
you? You want a long, deep sleep. Have it. Your head is heavy.
Very heavy. Your shoulders are heavy. Sleep.
The pencil stops. Alan's eyes remain shut and his head has sunk on his chest.
Can you hear me?
DYSART You can speak normally. Say Yes, if you can.
DYSART Good boy. Now raise your head, and open your eyes.
He does so.
Now, Alan, you're going to answer questions I'm going to ask you.
Do you understand?
DYSART And when you wake up, you are going to remember
everything you tell me. All right?
DYSART Good. Now I want you to think back in time. You are
on that beach you told me about. The tide has gone out, and you're
making sandcastles. Above you, staring down at you, is that great
horse's head, and the cream dropping from it.
Can you see that?
DYSART You ask him a question. 'Does the chain hurt?'
DYSART Do you ask him aloud?
DYSART And what does the horse say back?
DYSART Then what do you say?
ALAN 'Til take it out for you.'
DYSART And he says?
ALAN 'It never comes out. They have me in chains.'
DYSART Like Jesus?
DYSART Only his name isn't Jesus, is it?
DYSART What is it?
ALAN No one knows but him and me.
DYSART You can tell me, Alan. Name him.
DYSART Thank you. Does he live in all horses or just some?
DYSART Good boy. Now: you leave the beach. You're in your
bedroom at home. You're twelve years old. You're in front of the
picture. You're looking at Equus from the foot of your bed. Would
you like to kneel down?
ALAN Y ES .
DYSART (encouragingly) Go on, then.
Now tell me. Why is Equus in chains?
ALAN For the sins of the world.
DYSART What does he say to you?
ALAN 'I see you.' 'I will save you.'
ALAN 'Bear you away. Two shall be one.'
DYSART Horse and rider shall be one beast?
ALAN One person!
DYSART Go on.
ALAN 'And my chinkle-chankle shall be in thy hand.'
DYSART Chinkle-chankle? That's his mouth chain?
DYSART Good. You can get up ... Come on.
Now: think of the stable. What is the stable? His Temple?
His Holy of Holies?
ALAN Y ES .
DYSART Where you wash him? Where you tend him, and brush
him with many brushes?
DYSART And there he spoke to you, didn't he? He looked at you
with his gentle eyes, and spake unto you?
DYSART What did he say? 'Ride me?' 'Mount me, and ride me
forth at night'?
DYSART And you obeyed?
ALAN Y ES .
DYSART How did you learn? By watching others?
DYSART It must have been difficult. You bounced about?
DYSART But he showed you, didn't he? Equus showed you the
DYSART He didn't?
ALAN H E SHOWED ME NOTHING ! H E ' S A MEAN BUGGER ! R IDE -
OR FALL ! T HAT ' S S TRAW L AW .
DYSART Straw Law?
ALAN He was born in the straw, and this is his law.
DYSART But you managed? You mastered him?
ALAN Had to!
DYSART And then you rode in secret?
ALAN Y ES .
DYSART How often?
ALAN Every three weeks. More, people would notice.
DYSART On a particular horse?
DYSART How did you get into the stable?
ALAN Stole a key. Had it copied at Bryson's.
DYSART Clever boy.
Then you'd slip out of the house?
ALAN Midnight! On the stroke!
DYSART How far's the stable?
ALAN Two miles.
DYSART Let's do it! Let's go riding! ... Now!
He stands up, and pushes in his bench.
You are there now, in front of the stable door.
Alan turns upstage.
That key's in your hand. Go and open it.
Alan moves upstage, and mimes opening the door.
Soft light on the circle.
Humming from the Chorus: the Equus Noise.
The horse actors enter, raise high their masks, and put them on all together.
They stand around the circle - Nugget in the mouth of the tunnel.
DYSART Quietly as possible. Dalton may still be awake. Sssh ...
Quietly ... Good. Now go in.
Alan steps secretly out of the square through the central opening on to the circle,
now glowing with a warm light. He looks about him. The horses stamp
uneasily: their masks turn towards him.
You are on the inside now. All the horses are staring at you.
Can you see them?
ALAN (excited) Yes!
DYSART Which one are you going to take?
Alan reaches up and mimes leading Nugget carefully round the circle downstage
with a rope, past all the horses on the right.
DYSART What colour is Nugget?
The horse picks his way with care. Alan halts him at the corner of the square.
DYSART What do you do, first thing?
ALAN Put on his sandals.
He kneels, downstage centre.
ALAN Sandals of majesty! ... Made of sack.
He picks up the invisible sandals, and kisses them devoutly.
Tie them round his hooves.
He taps Nugget's right leg: the horse raises it and the boy mimes tying the sack
DYSART All four hooves?
He mimes picking up the bridle and bit.
He doesn't like it so late, but he takes it for my sake. He bends for
me. He stretches forth his neck to it.
Nugget bends his head down. Alan first ritually puts the bit into his own
mouth, then crosses, and transfers it into Nugget's. He reaches up and buckles
on the bridle. Then he leads him by the invisible reins, across the front of the
stage and up round the left side of the circle. Nugget follows obediently.
ALAN Buckle and lead out.
DYSART No saddle?
DYSART Go on.
ALAN Walk down the path behind. He's quiet. Always is, this bit.
Meek and mild legs. At least till the field. Then there's trouble.
The horse jerks back. The mask tosses.
DYSART What kind?
ALAN Won't go in.
DYSART Why not?
ALAN It's his place of Ha Ha.
ALAN H A H A .
DYSART Make him go into it.
ALAN (whispering fiercely) Come on! ... Come on! ...
He drags the horse into the square as Dysart steps out of it.
Nugget comes to a halt staring diagonally down what is now the field. The
Equus noise dies away. The boy looks about him.
DYSART (from the circle) Is it a big field?
DYSART What's it like?
ALAN Full of mist. Nettles on your feet.
He mimes taking off his shoes - and the sting.
DYSART (going back to his bench) You take your shoes off?
DYSART All your clothes?
He mimes undressing completely in front of the horse. When he is finished, and
obviously quite naked, he throws out his arms and shows himself fully to his
God, bowing his head before Nugget.
DYSART Where do you leave them?
ALAN Tree hole near the gate. No one could find them.
He walks upstage and crouches by the bench, stuffing the invisible clothes
beneath it. Dysart sits again on the left bench, downstage beyond the circle.
DYSART How does it feel now?
ALAN (holds himself) Burns.
ALAN The mist!
DYSART Go on. Now what?
ALAN The Manbit.
He reaches again under the bench and draws out an invisible stick.
ALAN The stick for my mouth.
DYSART Your mouth?
ALAN To bite on.
DYSART Why? What for?
ALAN So's it won't happen too quick.
DYSART Is it always the same stick?
ALAN Course. Sacred stick. Keep it in the hole. The Ark of the
DYSART And now what? ... What do you do now?
Pause. He rises and approaches Nugget.
ALAN T OUCH HIM !
ALAN (in wonder) All over. Everywhere. Belly. Ribs. His ribs are of
ivory. Of great value! ... His flank is cool. His nostrils open for me.
His eyes shine. They can see in the dark ... Eyes!-
Suddenly he dashes in distress to the farthest corner of the square.
DYSART Go on! ... Then?
ALAN Give sugar.
DYSART A lump of sugar?
Alan returns to Nugget.
ALAN His Last Supper.
DYSART Last before what?
ALAN Ha Ha.
He kneels before the horse, palms upward and joined together.
DYSART Do you say anything when you give it to him?
ALAN (offering it) Take my sins. Eat them for my sake ... He always
Nugget bows the mask into Alan's palm, then takes a step back to eat.
And then he's ready?
DYSART You can get up on him now?
DYSART Do it, then. Mount him.
Alan, lying before Nugget, stretches out on the square. He grasps the top of the
thin metal pole embedded in the wood. He whispers his God's name
ALAN Equus! ... Equus! ... Equus!
He pulls the pole upright. The actor playing Nugget leans forward and grabs it.
At the same instant all the other horses lean forward around the circle, each
placing a gloved hand on the rail. Alan rises and walks right back to the
upstage corner, left.
He runs and jumps high on to Nugget's back.
(crying out) Ah!
DYSART What is it?
ALAN Knives in his skin! Little knives - all inside my legs.
Nugget mimes restiveness.
ALAN Stay, Equus. No one said Go! ... That's it. He's good.
Equus the Godslave, Faithful and True. Into my hands he
commends himself - naked in his chinkle-chankle. (he punches
Nugget) Stop it! ... He wants to go so badly.
DYSART Go, then. Leave me behind. Ride away now, Alan.
Now! ... Now you are alone with Equus.
Alan stiffens his body.
ALAN (ritually) Equus - son of Fleckwus - son of Neckwus -Walk.
A hum from the Chorus.
Very slowly the horses standing on the circle begin to turn the square by gently
pushing the wooden rail. Alan and his mount start to revolve.
The effect, immediately, is of a statue being slowly turned round on a plinth.
During the ride however the speed increases, and the light decreases until it is
only a fierce spotlight on horse and rider, with the overspill glinting on the other
masks leaning in towards them.
Here we go. The King rides out on Equus, mightiest of horses.
Only I can ride him. He lets me turn him this way and that. His
neck comes out of my body. It lifts in the dark. Equus, my
Godslave! ... Now the King commands you. Tonight, we ride
against them all.
DYSART Who's all?
ALAN My foes and His.
DYSART Who are your foes?
ALAN The Hosts of Hoover. The Hosts of Philco. The Hosts of
Pifco. The House of Remington and all its tribe!
DYSART Who are His foes?
ALAN The Hosts of Jodhpur. The Hosts of Bowler and
Gymkhana. All those who show him off for their vanity. Tie
rosettes on his head for their vanity! Come on, Equus. Let's get
them! ... Trot!
The speed of the turning square increases.
Stead-y! Stead-y! Stead-y! Stead-y! Cowboys are watching! Take off
their stetsons. They know who we are. They're admiring us!
Bowing low unto us! Come on now - show them! Canter!
. . . CANTER!
He whips Nugget.
And Equus the Mighty rose against All!
His enemies scatter, his enemies fall! TURN!
Trample them, trample them, Trample them, trample them,
TURN! TURN!! TURN!!!
The Equus noise increases in volume.
(shouting) WEE! . . . WAA! . . . WONDERFUL! . . .
I'm stiff! Stiff in the wind!
My mane, stiff in the wind!
My flanks! My hooves!
Mane on my legs, on my flanks, like whips!
I'm raw! Raw!
Feel me on you! On you! On you! On you!
I want to be in you!
I want to BE you forever and ever!-
Equus, I love you!
Bear me away!
Make us One Person!
He rides Equus frantically.
One Person! One Person! One Person! One Person! He rises up on the horse's
back, and calls like a trumpet.
Ha-HA! ... Ha-HA! ... Ha-HA!
The trumpet turns to great cries.
HA-HA! HA-HA! HA-HA! HA-HA! HA! ... HA! ... HAAAAA!
He twists like a flame.
The turning square comes to a stop in the same position it occupied at the
opening of the Act.
Slowly the boy drops off the horse's back on to the ground. He lowers his head
and kisses Nugget's hoof. Finally he flings back his head and cries up to him:
Nugget snorts, once.
Lights come slowly up on Alan kneeling in the night at the hooves of Nugget.
Slowly he gets up, climbing lovingly up the body of the horse until he can stand
and kiss it.
Dysart sits on the downstage bench where he began Act One.
DYSART With one particular horse, called Nugget, he embraces.
He showed me how he stands with it afterwards in the night, one
hand on its chest, one on its neck, like a frozen tango dancer,
inhaling its cold sweet breath. 'Have you noticed,' he said, 'about
horses: how they'll stand one hoof on its end, like those girls in the
Alan leads Nugget out of the square. Dysart rises. The horse walks away up
the tunnel and disappears. The boy comes downstage and sits on the bench
Dysart has vacated. Dysart crosses downstage and moves slowly up round the
circle, until he reaches the central entrance to the square. Now he's gone off
to rest, leaving me alone with Equus. I can hear the creature's
voice. It's calling me out of the black cave of the Psyche. I shove in
my dim little torch, and there he stands - waiting for me. He raises
his matted head. He opens his great square teeth, and says -
(mocking) 'Why? ... Why Me? ... Why - ultimately - Me? ... Do you
really imagine you can account for Me? Totally, infallibly, inevitably
account for Me? ... Poor Doctor Dysart!' He enters the square.
Of course I've stared at such images before. Or been stared at by
them, whichever way you look at it. And weirdly often now with
me the feeling is that they are staring at us - that in some quite
palpable way they precede us. Meaningless, but unsettling ... In
either case, this one is the most alarming yet. It asks questions I've
avoided all my professional life.
(Pause) A child is born into a world of phenomena all equal in their
power to enslave. It sniffs - it sucks - it strokes its eyes over the
whole uncomfortable range. Suddenly one strikes. Why? Moments
snap together like magnets, forging a chain of shackles. Why? I can
trace them. I can even, with time, pull them apart again. But why at
the start they were ever magnetized at all - just those particular
moments of experience and no others - I don't know. And nor does
anyone else. Yet if I don't know - if I can never know that - then
what am I doing here? I don't mean clinically doing or socially
doing - I mean fundamentally! These questions, these Whys, are
fundamental - yet they have no place in a consulting room. So
then, do I? ... This is the feeling more and more with me - No
Place. Displacement ... 'Account for me,' says staring Equus. 'First
account for Me! ...' I fancy this is more than menopause.
Nurse rushes in.
NURSE Doctor! ... Doctor! There's a terrible scene with the
Strang boy. His mother came to visit him, and I gave her the tray
to take in. He threw it at her. She's saying the most dreadful things.
Alan springs up, down left. Dora springs up, down right. They face each other
across the bottom end of the stage. It is observable that at the start of this Act
Frank is not sitting beside his wife on their bench. It is hopefully not observable
that he is placed among the audience upstage, in the gloom, by the central
DORA Don't you dare! Don't you dare!
DYSART Is she still there?
He quickly leaves the square, followed by the Nurse. Dora moves towards her
DORA Don't you look at me like that! I'm not a doctor, you know,
who'll take anything. Don't you dare give me that stare, young man!
She slaps his face. Dysart joins them.
DYSART Mrs Strang!
DORA I know your stares. They don't work on me!
DYSART (to her) Leave this room.
DORA What did you say?
DYSART I tell you to leave here at once.
Dora hesitates. Then:
DORA Goodbye, Alan.
She walks past her son, and round into the square. Dysart follows her. Both
are very upset. Alan returns to his bench and Nurse to her place.
Lights up on the square.
DYSART I must ask you never to come here again.
DORA Do you think I want to? Do you think I want to?
DYSART Mrs Strang, what on earth has got into you? Can't you
see the boy is highly distressed?
DORA (ironic) Really?
DYSART Of course! He's at a most delicate stage of treatment.
He's totally exposed. Ashamed. Everything you can imagine!
DORA (exploding) And me? What about me? ... What do you think I
am? ... I'm a parent, of course - so it doesn't count. That's a dirty
word in here, isn't it, 'parent'?
DYSART You know that's not true.
DORA Oh, I know. I know, all right! I've heard it all my life. It's
our fault. Whatever happens, we did it. Alan's just a little victim.
He's really done nothing at all! (savagely) What do you have to do in
this world to get any sympathy - blind animals?
DYSART Sit down, Mrs Strang.
DORA (ignoring him: more and more urgently) Look, Doctor: you don't
have to live with this. Alan is one patient to you: one out of many.
He's my son. I lie awake every night thinking about it. Frank lies
there beside me. I can hear him. Neither of us sleeps all night. You
come to us and say Who forbids television? who does what behind
whose back? - as if we're criminals. Let me tell you something.
We're not criminals. We've done nothing wrong. We loved Alan.
We gave him the best love we could. All right, we quarrel
sometimes - all parents quarrel - we always make it up. My husband
is a good man. He's an upright man, religion or no religion. He
cares for his home, for the world, and for his boy. Alan had love
and care and treats, and as much fun as any boy in the world. I
know about loveless homes: I was a teacher. Our home wasn't
loveless. I know about privacy too - not invading a child's privacy.
All right, Frank may be at fault there - he digs into him too much -
but nothing in excess. He's not a bully ... (gravely) No, doctor.
Whatever's happened has happened because of Alan. Alan is himself.
Every soul is itself. If you added up everything we ever did to him,
from his first day on earth to this, you wouldn't find why he did
this terrible thing - because that's him: not just all of our things
added up. Do you understand what I'm saying? I want you to
understand, because I lie awake and awake thinking it out, and I
want you to know that I deny it absolutely what he's doing now,
staring at me, attacking me for what he's done, for what he is! (pause:
calmer) You've got your words, and I've got mine. You call it a
complex, I suppose. But if you knew God, Doctor, you would
know about the Devil. You'd know the Devil isn't made by what
mummy says and daddy says. The Devil's there. It's an old-
fashioned word, but a true tiling ... I'll go. What I did in there was
inexcusable. I only know he was my little Alan, and then the Devil
She leaves the square, and resumes her place. Dysart watches her go, then leaves
himself by the opposite entrance, and approaches Alan.
Seated on his bench, the boy glares at him.
DYSART I thought you liked your mother.
She doesn't know anything, you know. I haven't told her what you
told me. You do know that, don't you?
ALAN It was lies anyway.
ALAN You and your pencil. Just a con trick, that's all.
DYSART What do you mean?
ALAN Made me say a lot of lies.
DYSART Did it? ... Like what?
ALAN All of it. Everything I said. Lot of lies.
DYSART I see.
ALAN You ought to be locked up. Your bloody tricks.
DYSART I thought you liked tricks.
ALAN It'll be the drug next. I know.
Dysart turns, sharply.
DYSART What drug?
ALAN I've heard. I'm not ignorant. I know what you get up to in
here. Shove needles in people, pump them full of truth drug, so
they can't help saying things. That's next, isn't it?
DYSART Alan, do you know why you're here?
ALAN So you can give me truth drugs.
He glares at him. Dysart leaves abruptly, and returns to the square.
Hesther comes in simultaneously from the other side.
DYSART (agitated) He actually thinks they exist! And of course he
HESTHER It doesn't sound like that to me.
DYSART Of course he does. Why mention them otherwise? He
wants a way to speak. To finally tell me what happened in that
stable. Tape's too isolated, and hypnosis is a trick. At least that's
HESTHER Does he still say that today?
DYSART I haven't seen him. I cancelled his appointment this
morning, and let him stew in his own anxiety. Now I am almost
tempted to play a real trick on him.
HESTHER (sitting) Like what?
DYSART The old placebo.
HESTHER You mean a harmless pill?
DYSART Full of alleged Truth Drug. Probably an aspirin.
HESTHER But he'd deny it afterwards. Same thing all over.
DYSART No. Because he's ready to abreact.
DYSART Live it all again. He won't be able to deny it after that,
because he'll have shown me. Not just told me - but acted it out in
front of me.
HESTHER Can you get him to do that?
DYSART I think so. He's nearly done it already. Under all that
glowering, he trusts me. Do you realise that?
HESTHER (warmly) I'm sure he does.
DYSART Poor bloody fool.
HESTHER Don't start that again.
DYSART (quietly) Can you think of anything worse one can do to
anybody than take away their worship?
DYSART Yes, that word again!
HESTHER Aren't you being a little extreme?
DYSART Extremity's the point.
HESTHER Worship isn't destructive, Martin. I know that.
DYSART I don't. I only know it's the core of his life. What else
has he got? Think about him. He can hardly read. He knows no
physics or engineering to make the world real for him. No
paintings to show him how others have enjoyed it. No music
except television jingles. No history except tales from a desperate
mother. No friends. Not one kid to give him a joke, or make him
know himself more moderately. He's a modern citizen for whom
society doesn't exist. He lives one hour every three weeks - howling
in a mist. And after the service kneels to a slave who stands over
him obviously and unthrowably his master. With my body I thee
worship! ... Many men have less vital relationships with their wives.
HESTHER All the same, they don't usually blind their wives, do
DYSART Oh, come on!
HESTHER Well, do they?
DYSART (sarcastically) You mean he's dangerous? A violent,
dangerous madman who's going to run round the country doing it
again and again?
HESTHER I mean he's in pain, Martin. He's been in pain for
most of his life. That much, at least, you know.
HESTHER Possibly?! ... That cut-off little figure you just
described must have been in pain for years.
DYSART (doggedly) Possibly.
HESTHER And you can take it away.
4DYSART Still - possibly.
HESTHER Then that's enough. That simply has to be enough
for you, surely?
HESTHER Why not?
DYSART Because it's his.
HESTHER I don't understand.
DYSART His pain. His own. He made it.
(earnestly) Look ... to go through life and call it yours - your life - you
first have to get your own pain. Pain that's unique to you. You
can't just dip into the common bin and say 'That's enough!' ... He's
done that. All right, he's sick. He's full of misery and fear. He was
dangerous, and could be again, though I doubt it. But that boy has
known a passion more ferocious than I have felt in any second of
my life. And let me tell you something: I envy it.
HESTHER You can't.
DYSART (vehemently) Don't you see? That's the Accusation! That's
what his stare has been saying to me all this time. 'At least I galloped!
When did you?' ... (simply) I'm jealous, Hesther. Jealous of Alan
HESTHER That's absurd.
DYSART Is it? ... I go on about my wife. That smug woman by
the fire. Have you thought of the fellow on the other side of it?
The finicky, critical husband looking through his art books on
mythical Greece. What worship has he ever known? Real worship!
Without worship you shrink, it's as brutal as that ... I shrank my
own life. No one can do it for you. I settled for being pallid and
provincial, out of my own eternal timidity. The old story of bluster,
and do bugger-all ... I imply that we can't have children: but
actually, it's only me. I had myself tested behind her back. The
lowest sperm count you could find. And I never told her. That's all
I need - her sympathy mixed with resentment ... I tell everyone
Margaret's the puritan, I'm the pagan. Some pagan! Such wild
returns I make to the womb of civilization. Three weeks a year in
the Peleponnese, every bed booked in advance, every meal paid for
by vouchers, cautious jaunts in hired Fiats, suitcase crammed with
Kao-Pectate! Such a fantastic surrender to the primitive. And I use
that word endlessly: 'primitive'. 'Oh, the primitive world,' I say.
'What instinctual truths were lost with it!' And while I sit there,
baiting a poor unimaginative woman with the word, that freaky boy
tries to conjure the reality! I sit looking at pages of centaurs
trampling the soil of Argos - and outside my window he is trying to
become one, in a Hampshire field! ... I watch that woman knitting,
night after night - a woman I haven't kissed in six years - and he
stands in the dark for an hour, sucking the sweat off his God's
hairy cheek! (pause) Then in the morning, I put away my books on
the cultural shelf, close up the Kodachrome snaps of Mount
Olympus, touch my reproduction statue of Dionysus for luck - and
go off to hospital to treat him for insanity. Do you see?
HESTHER The boy's in pain, Martin. That's all I see. In the
end ... I'm sorry.
He looks at her. Alan gets up from his bench and stealthily places an envelope
in the left-hand entrance of the square, then goes back and sits with his back to
the audience, as if watching television. Hesther rises.
HESTHER That stare of his. Have you thought it might not be
accusing you at all?
DYSART What then?
HESTHER Claiming you.
DYSART For what?
HESTHER (mischievously) A new God.
DYSART Too conventional, for him. Finding a religion in
Psychiatry is really for very ordinary patients.
HESTHER Maybe he just wants a new Dad. Or is that too
conventional too? ... Since you're questioning your profession
anyway, perhaps you ought to try it and see.
DYSART (amused) I'll talk to you.
She smiles, and leaves him.
Dysart becomes aware of the letter lying on the floor. He picks it up, opens and
ALAN (speaking stiffly, as Dysart reads) 'It is all true, what I said after
you tapped the pencil. I'm sorry if I said different. Post Scriptum: I
know why I'm in here.' Pause.
DYSART ( CALLING , JOYFULLY ) N URSE !
Nurse comes in.
NURSE Yes, Doctor?
DYSART (trying to conceal his pleasure) Good evening!
NURSE You're in late tonight.
DYSART Yes! ... Tell me, is the Strang boy in bed yet?
NURSE Oh, no, Doctor. He's bound to be upstairs looking at
television. He always watches to the last possible moment.
He doesn't like going to his room at all.
DYSART You mean he's still having nightmares?
NURSE He had a bad one last night.
DYSART Would you ask him to come down here, please?
NURSE (faint surprise) Now?
DYSART I'd like a word with him.
NURSE (puzzled) Very good, Doctor.
DYSART If he's not back in his room by lights out, tell Night
Nurse not to worry. I'll see he gets back to bed all right.
And would you phone my home and tell my wife I may be in late?
NURSE Yes, Doctor.
DYSART Ask him to come straight away, please.
Nurse goes to the bench, taps Alan on the shoulder, whispers her message in
his ear, and returns to her place. Alan stands up and pauses for a second -
then steps into the square.
He stands in the doorway, depressed.
DYSART I got your letter. Thank you. (pause) Also the Post
ALAN (defensively) That's the right word. My mum told me. It's
Latin for 'After-writing'.
DYSART How are you feeling?
ALAN All right.
DYSART I'm sorry I didn't see you today.
ALAN You were fed up with me.
DYSART Yes. (pause) Can I make it up to you now?
ALAN What d'you mean?
DYSART I thought we'd have a session.
ALAN (startled) Now?
DYSART Yes! At dead of night! ... Better than going to sleep, isn't
The boy flinches.
Alan - look. Everything I say has a trick or a catch. Everything I do
is a trick or a catch. That's all I know to do. But they work - and
you know that. Trust me.
ALAN You got another trick, then?
ALAN A truth drug?
DYSART If you like.
ALAN What's it do?
DYSART Make it easier for you to talk.
ALAN Like you can't help yourself?
DYSART That's right. Like you have to speak the truth at all costs.
And all of it.
ALAN (slyly) Comes in a needle, doesn't it?
ALAN Where is it?
DYSART (indicating his pocket) In here.
ALAN Let's see.
Dysart solemnly takes a bottle of pills out of his pocket.
ALAN (suspicious) That really it?
DYSART It is ... Do you want to try it?
DYSART I think you do.
ALAN I don't. Not at all.
DYSART Afterwards you'd sleep. You'd have no bad dreams all
night. Probably many nights, from then on ...
ALAN How long's it take to work?
DYSART It's instant. Like coffee.
ALAN (half believing) It isn't!
DYSART I promise you ... Well?
ALAN Can I have a fag?
DYSART Pill first. Do you want some water?
Dysart shakes one out on to his palm. Alan hesitates for a second - then takes
it and swallows it.
DYSART Then you can chase it down with this. Sit down.
He offers him a cigarette, and lights it for him.
ALAN (nervous) What happens now?
DYSART We wait for it to work.
ALAN What'll I feel first?
DYSART Nothing much. After a minute, about a hundred green
snakes should come out of that cupboard singing the Hallelujah
ALAN (annoyed) I'm serious!
DYSART (earnestly) You'll feel nothing. Nothing's going to happen
now but what you want to happen. You're not going to say
anything to me but what you want to say. Just relax. Lie back and
finish your fag.
Alan stares at him. Then accepts the situation, and lies back.
DYSART Good boy.
ALAN I bet this room's heard some funny things.
DYSART It certainly has.
ALAN I like it.
DYSART This room?
ALAN Don't you?
DYSART Well, there's not much to like, is there?
ALAN How long am I going to be in here?
DYSART It's hard to say. I quite see you want to leave.
DYSART You don't?
ALAN Where would I go?
The boy looks at him. Dysart crosses and sits on the rail upstage, his feet on
the bench. A pause.
Actually, I'd like to leave this room and never see it again in my
ALAN (surprise) Why?
DYSART I've been in it too long.
ALAN Where would you go?
DYSART Yes. There's a sea - a great sea - I love ... It's where the
Gods used to go to bathe.
ALAN W HAT G ODS ?
DYSART The old ones. Before they died.
ALAN Gods don't die.
DYSART Yes, they do. Pause.
There's a village I spent one night in, where I'd like to live.
It's all white.
ALAN How would you Nosey Parker, though? You wouldn't have
a room for it any more.
DYSART I wouldn't mind. I don't actually enjoy being a Nosey
Parker, you know.
ALAN Then why do it?
DYSART Because you're unhappy.
ALAN So are you.
Dysart looks at him sharply. Alan sits up in alarm.
Oooh, I didn't mean that!
DYSART Didn't you?
ALAN Here - is that how it works? Things just slip out, not feeling
DYSART That's right.
ALAN But it's so quick!
DYSART I told you: it's instant.
ALAN (delighted) It's wicked, isn't it? I mean, you can say anything
ALAN Ask me a question.
DYSART Tell me about Jill.
Pause. The boy turns away.
ALAN There's nothing to tell.
DYSART Well, for example - is she pretty? You've never
ALAN She's all right.
DYSART What colour hair?
DYSART Is it long or short?
DYSART (lightly) You must know that.
ALAN I don't remember. I don't!
Dysart rises and comes down to him. He takes the cigarette out of his hand.
DYSART (firmly) Lie back___Now listen. You have to do this.
And now. You are going to tell me everything that happened with
this girl. And not just tell me - show me. Act it out, if you like - even
more than you did when I tapped the pencil. I want you to feel free
to do absolutely anything in this room. The pill will help you. I will
help you ... Now, where does she live?
A long pause.
ALAN (tight) Near the stables. About a mile.
Dysart steps down out of the square as Jill enters it. He sits again on the
The light grows warmer.
JILL It's called The China Pantry.
She comes down and sits casually on the rail. Her manner is open and lightly
provocative. During these scenes Alan acts directly with her, and never looks
over at Dysart when he replies to him.
When Daddy disappeared, she was left without a bean. She had to
earn her own living. I must say she did jolly well, considering she
was never trained in business.
DYSART What do you mean, 'disappeared'?
ALAN (to Dysart) He ran off. No one ever saw him again.
JILL Just left a note on her dressing table saying 'Sorry. I've had it.'
Just like that. She never got over it. It turned her right off men. All
my dates have to be sort of secret. I mean, she knows about them,
but I can't ever bring anyone back home. She's so rude to them.
ALAN (to Dysart) She was always looking.
DYSART At you?
ALAN (to Dysart) Saying stupid things.
She jumps off the bench.
JILL You've got super eyes.
ALAN (to Dysart) Anyway, she was the one who had them.
She sits next to him. Embarrassed, the boy tries to move away as far as he
JILL There was an article in the paper last week saying what points
about boys fascinate girls. They said Number One is bottoms. I
think it's eyes every time ... They fascinate you too, don't they?
JILL (sly) Or is it only horse's eyes?
ALAN (startled) What d'you mean?
JILL I saw you staring into Nugget's eyes yesterday for ages. I
spied on you through the door!
ALAN (hotly) There must have been something in it!
JILL You're a real Man of Mystery, aren't you?
ALAN (to Dysart) Sometimes, it was like she knew.
DYSART Did you ever hint?
ALAN (to Dysart) Course not!
JILL I love horses' eyes. The way you can see yourself in them.
D'you find them sexy?
ALAN (outraged) What?!
ALAN Don't be daft!
He springs up, and away from her.
JILL Girls do. I mean, they go through a period when they pat
them and kiss them a lot. I know I did. I suppose it's just a
ALAN (to Dysart) That kind of thing, all the time. Until one
DYSART Yes? What?
ALAN (to Dysart: defensively) She did it! Not me. It was her idea, the
whole thing! ... She got me into it!
DYSART What are you saying? 'One night': go on from there. A
ALAN (to Dysart) Saturday night. We were just closing up.
JILL How would you like to take me out?
JILL (coolly) How would you like to take me out tonight?
ALAN I've got to go home.
JILL What for?
He tries to escape upstage.
ALAN They expect me.
JILL Ring up and say you're going out.
ALAN I can't.
ALAN They expect me.
JILL Look. Either we go out together and have some fun, or you
go back to your boring home, as usual, and I go back to mine.
That's the situation, isn't it?
ALAN Well ... where would we go?
JILL The pictures! There's a skinflick over in Winchester! I've
never seen one, have you?
ALAN N O .
JILL Wouldn't you like to? I would. All those heavy Swedes,
panting at each other! . .. What d'you say?
ALAN ( GRINNING ) Y EH ! ...
JILL G OOD ! ...
He turns away.
DYSART G O ON , PLEASE .
He steps off the square.
ALAN (to Dysart) I'm tired now!
DYSART Come on now. You can't stop there.
He storms round the circle to Dysart, and faces him directly.
ALAN I'm tired! I want to go to bed!
DYSART (sharply) Well, you can't. I want to hear about the film.
ALAN (hostile) Hear what? ... What? ... It was bloody awful!
The actors playing horses come swiftly on to the square, dressed in sports coats
or raincoats. They move the benches to be parallel with the audience, and sit on
them - staring out front.
ALAN Nosey Parker!
ALAN Because! ... Well - we went into the Cinema!
A burst of rock music, instantly fading down. Lights darken.
Alan re-enters the square. Jill rises and together they grope their way to the
downstage bench, as if in a dark auditorium.
ALAN (to Dysart) The whole place was full of men. Jill was the
They push by a patron seated at the end, and sit side by side, staring up at the
invisible screen, located above the heads of the main audience.
A spotlight hits the boy's face.
We sat down and the film came on. It was daft. Nothing happened
for ages. There was this girl Brita, who was sixteen. She went to
stay in this house, where there was an older boy. He kept giving
her looks, but she ignored him completely. In the end she took a
shower. She went into the bathroom and took off all her clothes.
The lot. Very slowly ... What she didn't know was the boy was
looking through the door all the time .... (he starts to become excited) It
was fantastic! The water fell on her breasts, bouncing down her ...
Frank steps into the square furtively from the back, hat in hand, and stands
looking about for a place.
DYSART Was that the first time you'd seen a girl naked?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes! You couldn't see everything, though ....
(looking about him) All round me they were all looking. All the men -
staring up like they were in church. Like they were a sort of
congregation. And then - (he sees his father) Ah!
At the same instant Frank sees him.
JILL What is it?
ALAN At the back! He saw me!
JILL You sure?
FRANK (calling) Alan!
ALAN O H G OD !
He tries to hide his face in the girl's shoulder. His father comes down the aisle
FRANK Alan! You can hear me! Don't pretend!
FRANK (approaching the row of seats) Do I have to come and fetch
you out? ... Do I? ...
Cries of 'Sssh!' and 'Shut up!'
Do I, Alan?
ALAN (through gritted teeth) Oh fuck!
He gets up as the noise increases. Jill gets up too and follows him.
DYSART You went?
ALAN (to Dysart) What else could I do? He kept shouting.
Everyone was saying Shut up!
They go out, right, through the group of Patrons - who rise protesting as they
pass, quickly replace the benches and leave the square.
Dysart enters it.
Light brightens from the cinema, but remains cold: streets at night.
The three walk round the circle downstage in a line: Frank leading, wearing
his hat. He halts in the middle of the left rail, and stands staring straight
ahead of him, rigid with embarrassment. Alan is very agitated.
ALAN (to Dysart) We went into the street, all three of us. It was
weird. We just stood there by the bus stop - like we were three
people in a queue, and we didn't know each other. Dad was all
white and sweaty. He didn't look at us at all. It must have gone on
for about five minutes. I tried to speak. I said - (to his father) I - I -
I've never been there before. Honest ... Never ... (to Dysart) He
didn't seem to hear. Jill tried.
JILL It's true, Mr Strang. It wasn't Alan's idea to go there. It was
ALAN (to Dysart) He just went on staring, straight ahead. It was
JILL I'm not shocked by films like that. I think they're just silly.
ALAN (to Dysart) The bus wouldn't come. We just stood and
stood ... Then suddenly he spoke.
Frank takes off his hat.
FRANK (stiffly) I'd like you to know something. Both of you. I
came here tonight to see the Manager. He asked me to call on him
for business purposes. I happen to be a printer, Miss. A picture
house needs posters. That's entirely why I'm here. To discuss
posters. While I was waiting I happened to glance in, that's all. I
can only say I'm going to complain to the council. I had no idea
they showed films like this. I'm certainly going to refuse my
JILL (kindly) Yes, of course.
FRANK So long as that's understood.
ALAN (to Dysart) Then the bus came along.
FRANK Come along, now Alan.
He moves away downstage.
FRANK (turning) No fuss, please. Say Goodnight to the young
ALAN (timid but firm) No. I'm stopping here ... I've got to see her
home ... It's proper.
FRANK (as dignified as possible) Very well. I'll see you when you
choose to return. Very well then ... Yes ...
He walks back to his original seat, next to his wife. He stares across the
square at his son - who stares back at him. Then, slowly, he sits.
ALAN (to Dysart) And he got in, and we didn't. He sat down and
looked at me through the glass. And I saw ...
DYSART (soft) What?
ALAN (to Dysart) His face. It was scared.
DYSART Of you?
ALAN (to Dysart) It was terrible. We had to walk home. Four
miles. I got the shakes.
DYSART You were scared too?
ALAN (to Dysart) It was like a hole had been drilled in my tummy.
A hole - right here. And the air was getting in!
He starts to walk upstage, round the circle.
The girl stays still.
JILL (aware of other people looking) Alan ...
ALAN (to Dysart) People kept turning round in the street to look.
ALAN (to Dysart) I kept seeing him, just as he drove off. Scared of
me ... And me scared of him ... I kept thinking - all those airs he
put on! ... 'Receive my meaning. Improve your mind!' ... All those
nights he said he'd be in late. 'Keep my supper hot, Dora!' 'Your
poor father: he works so hard!' ... Bugger! Old bugger! ... Filthy old
He stops, clenching his fists.
JILL Hey! Wait for me!
She runs after him. He waits.
What are you thinking about?
JILL Mind my own beeswax?
ALAN (to Dysart) And suddenly she began to laugh.
119JILL I'm sorry. But it's pretty funny, when you think of it.
ALAN (bewildered) What?
JILL Catching him like that! I mean, it's terrible - but it's very
ALAN Y EH !
He turns from her.
JILL No, wait! ... I'm sorry. I know you're upset. But it's not the
end of the world, is it? I mean, what was he doing? Only what we
were. Watching a silly film. It's a case of like father like son, I'd
say! ... I mean, when that girl was taking a shower, you were pretty
interested, weren't you?
He turns round and looks at her.
We keep saying old people are square. Then when they suddenly
aren't - we don't like it!
DYSART What did you think about that?
ALAN (to Dysart) I don't know. I kept looking at all the people in
the street. They were mostly men coming out of pubs. I suddenly
thought - they all do it! All of them! ... They're not just Dads - they're
people with pricks! ... And Dad - he's not just Dad either. He's a
man with a prick too. You know, I'd never thought about it.
We went into the country.
He walks again. Jill follows. They turn the corner and come downstage, right.
We kept walking. I just thought about Dad, and how he was
nothing special -just a poor old sod on his own. He stops. (to Jill:
realising it) Poor old sod!
JILL That's right!
ALAN (grappling with it) I mean, what else has he got? ... He's got
mum, of course, but well - she - she - she -
JILL She doesn't give him anything?
ALAN That's right. I bet you ... She doesn't give him anything.
That's right ... That's really right! ... She likes Ladies and
Gentlemen. Do you understand what I mean?
JILL (mischievously) Ladies and gentlemen aren't naked?
ALAN That's right! Never! ... Never! That would be disgusting!
She'd have to put bowler hats on them! ...Jodhpurs!
DYSART Was that the first time you ever thought anything like
that about your mother? ... I mean, that she was unfair to your
ALAN (to Dysart) Absolutely!
DYSART How did you feel?
ALAN (to Dysart) Sorry. I mean for him. Poor old sod, that's what
I felt - he's just like me! He hates ladies and gents just like me! Posh
things - and la-di-da. He goes off by himself at, night, and does his
own secret thing which no one'll know about, just like me! There's
no difference - he's just the same as me - just the same! -
He stops in distress, then bolts back a little upstage.
DYSART (sternly) Go on.
ALAN (to Dysart) I can't.
DYSART Of course you can. You're doing wonderfully.
ALAN ( TO D YSART ) N O , PLEASE . D ON ' T MAKE ME !
DYSART (firm) Don't think: just answer. You were happy at that
second, weren't you? When you realised about your dad. How lots
of people have secrets, not just you?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes.
DYSART You felt sort of free, didn't you? I mean, free to do
ALAN (to Dysart, looking at Jill) Yes!
DYSART What was she doing?
ALAN (to Dysart) Holding my hand.
DYSART And that was good?
ALAN (to Dysart) Oh, yes!
DYSART Remember what you thought. As if it's happening to you
now. This very moment ... What's in your head?
ALAN (to Dysart) Her eyes. She's the one with eyes! ... I keep
looking at them, because I really want -
DYSART To look at her breasts?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes.
DYSART Like in the film.
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes ... Then she starts to scratch my hand.
JILL You're really very nice, you know that?
ALAN (to Dysart) Moving her nails on the back. Her face so warm.
DYSART You want her very much?
ALAN ( TO D YSART ) Y ES ...
JILL I love your eyes. She kisses him.
(whispering) Let's go!
JILL I know a place. It's right near here.
JILL Surprise! ... Come on!
She darts away round the circle, across the stage and up the left side.
ALAN (to Dysart) She runs ahead. I follow. And then - and then -!
ALAN (to Dysart) I see what she means.
DYSART What? ... Where are you? ... Where has she taken you?
ALAN ( TO J ILL ) T HE S TABLES ?
JILL Of course!
Chorus makes a warning hum.
The horses-actors enter, and ceremonially put on their masks - first raising
them high above their heads. Nugget stands in the central tunnel.
ALAN (recoiling) No!
JILL Where else? They're perfect!
He turns his head from her.
JILL Or do you want to go home now and face your dad?
JILL Then come on!
He edges nervously past the horse standing at the left, which turns its neck and
even moves a challenging step after him.
ALAN Why not your place?
JILL I can't. Mother doesn't like me bringing back boys. I told
you ... Anyway, the Barn's better.
JILL All that straw. It's cosy.
JILL Why not?
JILL Dalton will be in bed ... What's the matter? ... Don't you
ALAN (aching to) Yes!
JILL S O ?
ALAN (desperate) Them! ... Them! ...
ALAN ( LOW ) H ORSES .
JILL Horses? ... You're really dotty, aren't you? ... What do you
mean? He starts shaking.
Oh, you're freezing ... Let's get under the straw. You'll be warm
ALAN (pulling away) No!
JILL What on earth's the matter with you? ...
Silence. He won't look at her.
Look, if the sight of horses offends you, my lord, we can just shut
the door. You won't have to see them. All right?
DYSART What door is that? In the barn?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes.
DYSART So what do you do? You go in?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes.
A rich light falls.
Furtively Alan enters the square from the top end, and Jill follows. The horses
on the circle retire out of sight on either side. Nugget retreats up the tunnel and
stands where he can just be glimpsed in the dimness.
DYSART Into the Temple? The Holy of Holies?
ALAN (to Dysart: desperate) What else can I do? ... I can't say! I can't
tell her ... (to Jill) Shut it tight.
JILL All right ... You're crazy.
ALAN Lock it.
JILL It's just an old door. What's the matter with you? They're in
their boxes. They can't get out ... Are you all right?
JILL You look weird.
ALAN L OCK IT !
JILL Ssssh! D'you want to wake up Dalton? ... Stay there, idiot.
She mimes locking a heavy door, upstage.
DYSART Describe the barn, please.
ALAN (walking round it: to Dysart) Large room. Straw everywhere.
Some tools ... (as if picking it up off the rail where he left it in Act One) A
hoof pick! ...
He 'drops' it hastily, and dashes away from the spot.
DYSART Go on.
ALAN (to Dysart) At the end this big door. Behind it -
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes.
DYSART How many?
ALAN (to Dysart) Six.
DYSART Jill closes the door so you can't see them?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes.
DYSART A ND THEN ? ... W HAT HAPPENS NOW ? ... C OME ON ,
A LAN . Show me.
JILL See, it's all shut. There's just us ... Let's sit down. Come on.
They sit together on the same bench, left.
ALAN (quickly) Hallo.
She kisses him lightly. He responds. Suddenly a faint trampling of hooves, off-
stage, makes him jump up.
JILL What is it?
He turns his head upstage, listening.
Relax. There's no one there. Come here.
She touches his hand. He turns to her again.
You're very gentle. I love that ...
ALAN So are you ... I mean ...
He kisses her spontaneously. The hooves trample again, harder. He breaks
away from her abruptly towards the upstage corner.
JILL (rising) What is it?
She moves towards him. He turns and moves past her. He is clearly distressed.
She contemplates him for a moment.
JILL (gently) Take your sweater off.
JILL I will, if you will.
He stares at her. A pause.
She lifts her sweater over her head: he watches - then unzips his. They each
remove their shoes, their socks, and their jeans. Then they look at each other
diagonally across the square, in which the light is gently increasing.
ALAN You're ... You're very ...
JILL So are you .... (pause) Come here.
He goes to her. She comes to him. They meet in the middle, and hold each
other, and embrace.
ALAN (to Dysart) She put her mouth in mine. It was lovely! Oh, it
They burst into giggles. He lays her gently on the floor in the centre of the
square, and bends over her eagerly.
Suddenly the noise of Equus fills the place. Hooves smash on wood. Alan
straightens up, rigid. He stares straight ahead of him over the prone body of the
DYSART Yes, what happened then, Alan?
ALAN (to Dysart: brutally ) I put it in her!
ALAN (to Dysart) I put it in her.
DYSART You did?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes!
DYSART Was it easy?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes.
DYSART Describe it.
ALAN (to Dysart) I told you.
DYSART More exactly.
ALAN (to Dysart) I put it in her!
DYSART Did you?
ALAN (to Dysart) All the way!
DYSART Did you, Alan?
ALAN (to Dysart) All the way. I shoved it. I put it in her all the
DYSART Did you?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes!
DYSART Did you?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes! ... Yes!
DYSART Give me the TRUTH! ... Did you? ... Honestly?
ALAN (to Dysart) Fuck off!
He collapses, lying upstage on his face. Jill lies on her back motionless, her head
downstage, her arms extended behind her. A pause.
DYSART (gently) What was it? You couldn't? Though you wanted
to very much?
ALAN (to Dysart) I couldn't ... see her.
DYSART What do you mean?
ALAN (to Dysart) Only Him. Every time I kissed her - He was in
Alan turns on his back.
ALAN (to Dysart) You know who! ... When I touched her, I felt
Him. Under me ... His side, waiting for my hand ... His flanks ... I
refused him. I looked. I looked right at her ... and I couldn't do it.
When I shut my eyes, I saw Him at once. The streaks on his
belly ... (with more desperation) I couldn't feel her flesh at all! I wanted
the foam off his neck. His sweaty hide. Not flesh. Hide! Horse-
hide! ... Then I couldn't even kiss her.
Jill sits up.
JILL What is it?
ALAN (dodging her hand) No!
He scrambles up and crouches in the corner against the rails, like a little beast
in a cage.
ALAN Stop it!
Jill gets up.
JILL It's all right ... It's all right ... Don't worry about it. It often
happens - honest ... There's nothing wrong. I don't mind, you
know ... I don't at all.
He dashes past her downstage.
Alan, look at me ... Alan? ... Alan!
He collapses again by the rail.
ALAN Get out! ...
JILL W HAT ?
ALAN (soft) Out!
JILL There's nothing wrong: believe me! It's very common.
ALAN G ET OUT !
He snatches up the invisible pick.
JILL Put that down!
ALAN L EAVE ME ALONE !
JILL Put that down, Alan. It's very dangerous. Go on, please -
He 'drops' it, and turns from her.
ALAN You ever tell anyone. Just you tell ...
JILL Who do you think I am? ... I'm your friend - Alan ...
She goes towards him.
Listen: you don't have to do anything. Try to realize that. Nothing
at all. Why don't we just lie here together in the straw. And talk.
ALAN ( LOW ) P LEASE ...
JILL Just talk.
JILL All right, I'm going ... Let me put my clothes on first.
She dresses, hastily.
ALAN You tell anyone! ... Just tell and see -
JILL Oh, stop it! ... I wish you could believe me. It's not in the least
Anyway, I won't say anything. You know that. You know I
Pause. He stands with his back to her.
Goodnight, then, Alan ... I wish - I really wish -
He turns on her, hissing. His face is distorted - possessed. In horrified alarm
she turns - Jumbles the door open - leaves the barn - shuts the door hard behind
her, and dashes up the tunnel out of sight, past the barely visible figure of
Alan stands alone, and naked.
A faint humming and drumming. The boy looks about him in growing terror.
ALAN (to Dysart) He was there. Through the door. The door was
shut, but he was there! ... He'd seen everything. I could hear him.
He was laughing.
ALAN (to Dysart) Mocking! ... Mocking! ...
Standing downstage he stares up towards the tunnel. A great silence weighs on
(to the silence: terrified) Friend ... Equus the Kind ... The Merciful! ...
Forgive me! ... Silence.
It wasn't me. Not really me. Me! ... Forgive me! ... Take me back
again! Please! ... PLEASE!
He kneels on the downstage lip of the square, still facing the door, huddling in
I'll never do it again. I swear ... I swear! ...
(in a moan) Please!!! ...
DYSART And He? What does He say?
ALAN (to Dysart: whispering) 'Mine! ... You're mine! ... I am yours
and you are mine!' ... Then I see his eyes. They are rolling!
Nugget begins to advance slowly, with relentless hooves, down the central tunnel.
'I see you. I see you. Always! Everywhere! Forever!'
DYSART Kiss anyone and I will see?
ALAN (to Dysart) Yes!
DYSART Lie with anyone and I will see?
ALAN ( TO D YSART ) Y ES !
DYSART And you will fail! Forever and ever you will fail! You will
see ME - and you will FAIL!
The boy turns round, hugging himself in pain. From the sides two more horses
converge with Nugget on the rails. Their hooves stamp angrily. The equus
Noise is heard more terribly.
The Lord thy God is a Jealous God. He sees you. He sees you
forever and ever, Alan. He sees you! ... He sees you!
ALAN (in terror) Eyes! ... White eyes - never closed! Eyes like
flames - coming - coming! ... God seest! God seest! ... NO ! ...
Pause. He steadies himself. The stage begins to blacken.
(quieter) No more. No more, Equus.
He gets up. He goes to the bench. He takes up the invisible pick. He moves
slowly upstage towards Nugget, concealing the weapon behind his naked back,
in the growing darkness. He stretches out his hand and fondles Nugget's mask.
(gently) Equus ... Noble Equus ... Faithful and True ... Godslave ...
He stabs out Nugget's eyes. The horse stamps in agony. A great screaming
begins to fill the theatre, growing ever louder. Alan dashes at the other two
horses and blinds them too, stabbing over the rails. Their metal hooves join in
Relentlessly, as this happens, three more horses appear in cones of light: not
naturalistic animals like the first three, but dreadful creatures out of nightmare.
Their eyes flare - their nostrils flare - their mouths flare. They are archetypal
images - judging, punishing, pitiless. They do not halt at the rail, but invade
the square. As they trample at him, the boy leaps desperately at them, jumping
high and naked in the dark, slashing at their heads with arms upraised.
The screams increase. The other horses follow into the square. The whole place
is filled with cannoning, blinded horses - and the boy dodging among them,
avoiding their slashing hooves as best he can. Finally they plunge off into
darkness and away out of sight. The noise dies abruptly, and all we hear is
Alan yelling in hysteria as he collapses on the ground - stabbing at his own eyes
with the invisible pick.
ALAN Find me! ... Find me! ... Find me! ...
KILL ME! ... KILL ME! ...
The light changes quickly back to brightness.
Dysart enters swiftly, hurls a blanket on the left bench, and rushes over to
Alan. The boy is having convulsions on the floor. Dysart grabs his hands,
forces them from his eyes, scoops him up in his arms and carries him over to the
bench. Alan hurls his arms round Dysart and clings to him, gasping and
kicking his legs in a dreadful frenzy.
Dysart lays him down and presses his head back on the bench. He keeps
talking - urgently talking - soothing the agony as he can.
DYSART Here ... Here ... Ssssh ... Ssssh ... Calm now ... Lie back.
Just lie back! Now breathe in deep. Very deep. In ... Out ... In ...
Out ... That's it ... In. Out ... In ... Out ...
The boy's breath is drawn into his body with a harsh rasping sound, which
slowly grows less. Dysart puts the blanket over him.
Keep it going ... That's a good boy ... Very good boy ... It's all over
now, Alan. It's all over. He'll go away now. You'll never see him
again, I promise. You'll have no more bad dreams. No more awful
nights. Think of that! ... You are going to be well. I'm going to
make you well, I promise you. - You'll be here for a while, but I'll
be here too, so it won't be so bad. Just trust me ...
He stands upright. The boy lies still.
Sleep now. Have a good long sleep. You've earned it ... Sleep. Just
sleep ... I'm going to make you well.
He steps backwards into the centre of the square. The light brightens some
more. A pause.
DYSART I'm lying to you, Alan. He won't really go that easily.
Just clop away from you like a nice old nag. Oh, no! When Equus
leaves - if he leaves at all - it will be with your intestines in his
teeth. And I don't stock replacements ... If you knew anything,
you'd get up this minute and run from me fast as you could.
Hesther speaks from her place.
HESTHER The boy's in pain, Martin.
HESTHER And you can take it away.
DYSART Y ES .
HESTHER Then that has to be enough for you, surely? ... In the
DYSART (crying out) All right! I'll take it away! He'll be delivered
from madness. What then? He'll feel himself acceptable! What then?
Do you think feelings like his can be simply re-attached, like
plasters? Stuck on to other objects we select? Look at him! ... My
desire might be to make this boy an ardent husband - a caring
citizen - a worshipper of abstract and unifying God. My
achievement, however, is more likely to make a ghost! ... Let me
tell you exactly what I'm going to do to him!
He steps out of the square and walks round the upstage end of it, storming at
I'll heal the rash on his body. I'll erase the welts cut into his mind
by flying manes. When that's done, I'll set him on a nice mini-
scooter and send him puttering off into the Normal world where
animals are treated properly: made extinct, or put into servitude, or
tethered all their lives in dim light, just to feed it! I'll give him the
good Normal world where we're tethered beside them - blinking
our nights away in a non-stop drench of cathode-ray over our
shrivelling heads! I'll take away his Field of Ha Ha, and give him
Normal places for his ecstasy - multi-lane highways driven through
the guts of cities, extinguishing Place altogether, even the idea of Place!
He'll trot on his metal pony tamely through the concrete evening -
and one thing I promise you: he will never touch hide again! With
any luck his private parts will come to feel as plastic to him as the
products of the factory to which he will almost certainly be sent.
Who knows? He may even come to find sex funny. Smirky funny.
Bit of grunt funny. Trampled and furtive and entirely in control.
Hopefully, he'll feel nothing at his fork but Approved Flesh. I
doubt, however, with much passion! ... Passion, you see, can be destroyed
by a doctor. It cannot be created.
He addresses Alan directly, in farewell.
You won't gallop any more, Alan. Horses will be quite safe. You'll
save your pennies every week, till you can change that scooter in
for a car, and put the odd fifty p on the gee-gees, quite forgetting
that they were ever anything more to you than bearers of little
profits and little losses. You will, however, be without pain. More
or less completely without pain.
He speaks directly to the theatre, standing by the motionless body of Alan
Strang, under the blanket.
And now for me it never stops: that voice of Equus out of the cave
- 'Why Me? ... Why Me? ... Account for Me!' ... All right - I
surrender! I say it! ... In an ultimate sense I cannot know what I do
in this place - yet I do ultimate things. Essentially I cannot know
what I do - yet I do essential things. Irreversible, terminal things. I
stand in the dark with a pick in my hand, striking at heads!
He moves away from Alan, back to the downstage bench, and finally sits.
I need - more desperately than my children need me - a way of
seeing in the dark. What way is this? ... What dark is this? ... I cannot
call it ordained of God: I can't get that far.
I will however pay it so much homage. There is now, in my mouth,
this sharp chain. And it never comes out.
A long pause, Dysart sits staring.