The Stories Behind Some of History’s Most Controversial Theatrical Productions


Inspired by a true story about a teenage boy who blinded six horses, Peter Shaffer wrote Equus in the early ’70s to examine what might have been the cause behind the crime. He constructed a story about a young man who’s troubled childhood led him to develop a sexual attraction to horses — thanks to his mother’s suffocating religious weirdsies. Confusing religious devotion with something more venereal, he invents his own theology — all of which is studied by his psychiatrist. Although Equus was applauded for its unique staging, the subject matter left something to be desired with other audiences. On-stage nudity has also caused concern, particularly when a 17-year-old Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) took the lead part for the play’s Broadway run several years ago. Sidney Lumet directed a film version in 1977 that used real horses in it — another artistic and moral point of contention for some viewers.