CHRISTOPHER SMITH Sewell Barn, Norwich
> Sewell Barn, Norwich
Nightmares come to life in this gripping drama by Peter Shaffer that is being performed, aptly enough, in the Sewell Barn with its Black Beauty associations.
Hearing of a hideous real-life incident in which horses were blinded in their stable, the author imagined a play about a psychiatrist trying to treat the teenager who committed the crime.
The temptation is to say he was responsible for the cruel deed.
But we are forced to question that view again and again. Eventually it becomes clear the dice were always loaded against the youth.
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Others made him what he is, though they could never foresee how things might turn out.
Then the situation becomes far more interesting.
The psychiatrist at the end of his tether in mid career is played by Asa Cannell, with an increasing sense of desperation.
Disillusioned, he is beset with doubt. This is intriguing enough, even though no one will deny that the sullen, truculent Alan (Benjamin Henson) does need help.
Director Michelle Montague keeps up the intensity of the play. Everything is in focus as we look down on the confrontations as they are acted out in intense scenes.
Pools of light seem to suggest the glimpses that we are being given of the matters hidden in the dark recesses of the mind.
The metaphorical baring of souls is strikingly reflected in undressing, and all around are images of horses and the sounds of clattering hooves.
In this clever, intriguing and disturbing piece of theatre, ideas and words become flesh and blood.