Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing a production of Equus, staged in Greenwich as part of a national tour by London Classic Theatre. It’s a play which I think has sadly been ruined for some people either by its inclusion on their school syllabus as a teenager, or by poor productions taken on by companies which don’t realise this is actually a very challenging play to stage.
For my part, I have loved the play since I first read it some 20 years ago, as a teenager struggling to get to grips with my GCSE English course. And this most recent production certainly did the tale justice. For those not familiar with the story, it focuses on the relationship between a psychiatrist (Dysart) and a teenage male patient (Strang) whom he is treating following an incident in which Strang blinded six horses. Thematically, it considers Dysart’s struggle between on the one hand “curing” Strang whom he knows is suffering; and on the other, his fear of stripping his patient of an energising passion for life, a passion which Dysart fears he will never know himself.
It’s a complex tale, and that very cursory summary doesn’t really do it justice. But having read or watched the play many times, it always forces me to reflect on the place of passion in modern life. Strang’s passion clearly got out of hand and led him into immoral and criminal actions. But the play seems to ask whether in modern society our fear of this sort of unbridled passion leads us to the other extreme – a passionless and empty approach to life.
It’s a massive question, and not one we are going to answer in a short blog posting! But I do sometimes fear – and I realise this is a generalisation – that too often today it is unfashionable to be passionate about something; to express a genuine, spontaneous and heartfelt excitement about your job, your home, your family or your hobbies. People who do may be considered “uncool”, eccentric or somewhat embarrassing.
Occasionally, perhaps, we let our passions show – usually when we are in a safe environment with people who share those passions. Perhaps it’s in a meeting with like-minded people at the office, with our partner or children, or in a group of hobbyists. And when we do it is energising, exciting and stimulating, and perhaps even encourages us to new achievements which we did not previously know we were capable of.
So I guess I wonder what would happen if we let those passions show a little more often….it’s just a thought…?