Richard Rodney Bennett

Equus

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Peter Shaffer's play Equus found a dramatic context for discussing the issue, current in the 1970s and since disregarded, of whether the mad are really mad. Dysart, his main character, a stand-in for pop psychiatrist R.D. Laing, goes about questioning himself and society instead of the disturbed young man he's sent to treat. Lithium has made this kind of thing obsolete, but Shaffer pumped it full of faux-philosophical import (his specialty), which was good for a successful Broadway run and a ponderous film starring Richard Burton. The soundtrack music, by Richard Rodney Bennett, is all slow-paced violas and cellos, intended to be haunting as well as ominous, but becomes heavy listening over time, especially because Burton's and Peter Firth's meandering (albeit impeccably spoken) monologues are woven in with it. (The Rykodisc reissue is an enhanced CD that allows you to run the film's trailer on your computer.)

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