Q&A with Ethan Kai and Robert Fitch from Equus

Posted on 8 July 2019

Following its critically acclaimed run at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Ned Bennett’s stunning revival has made its way back to London following a national tour. Peter Shaffer’s psychological thriller will play at the West End’s Trafalgar Studios for a limited 9-week run and it’s a must see! Secure your tickets to Equus in London now to avoid disappointment.

The Equus West End run has begun and there is still time to get summers hottest tickets. Before this incredible production opened its doors on 6 July, I had the opportunity to chat to a couple of members of this dynamic cast and ask them some questions all about Equus and their experiences with this thrilling play so far. Read below to see what Ethan Kai and Robert Fitch had to say…

Q&A with EquusEthan Kai and Robert Fitch

1. Would you say you have learnt anything from your experiences in Equus and what will you take away from it?
Robert: As a person? One of the great things I’ve learned from this, this whole piece is devised so we as a cast and company sat down in January and started devising this piece and that I’ve never done before. I had in bits and pieces but never from scratch. So, what I’ll take away from it is patience and a very open mind. Anything can happen and the maddest ideas are the simplest, and sometimes the best, but sometimes the worst. And unless you get them all out and start exploring then you’ll never create something special. It’s been an inspiring experience!
Ethan: I’ll take away having worked with an amazing director, like no other director I’ve worked with before. Working with such beautiful actors and lovely all-round genuine people and putting on a production I’m so super proud to be part of.

2. The play is open to interpretation about what causes Alan’s behaviour, have you read different theories, and do you have your own and/or a favourite?
Ethan: I’d rather not answer that question to be honest, because I think it's better to leave it open and allow people to freely interpret.
Robert: I play his [Alan’s] dad, so I’ve got a huge part in what’s gone on, and his mum has as well, but I agree [with Ethan].
Ethan: I think it’s open for that to be open for interpretation. It was important to us to make sure it’s ambiguous, so people do interpret. We weren’t specific on giving people a particular message.
Robert: It’s not preachy at all. As an audience member you have a very specific experience and what you take away from it is entirely valid and I think that’s the same with us on stage as well. As an actor, I might have a slightly different experience to this production as you [as a member of the audience] do and that’s just as valid. I think trying to explain it is not what [Peter] Shaffer was about.

3. Robert, do you think Frank contributed to Alan’s misery? If so, do you think this makes Frank more tangible as a parent and therefore relatable?
Robert: There are some quite extreme characters in this play and extremities mentioned, so extremities are not a thing to be avoided. Does it make it tangible? Yeah! I’m a dad and there are people who would behave the same way. I have values and I have a perceived way of looking at the world and I believe in that. I want my son to follow things I consider important. So, yeah, I think he’s a very real person.

4. The horses are played by people with no costumes or masks, do you think this changes the sexual interpretations of the play?
Robert: Again, I don’t want to say yes or no.
Ethan: There are people that have come to see it that would read that the use of male form and only using the essence of the horse and not putting on a mask, there have been people who have had said afterwards that they thought it was a metaphor for closeted homosexuality. To that; that’s not something we were necessarily trying to put across to people but it’s amazing that people can come and take that away. And like Robert said, that’s no less valid.
Robert: I think it’s an interesting angle to have no masks. First of all, we’ve got two especially talented people that play the horses, we all play horses as well, but there are two main people who are just spectacularly beautiful. When you see them, they are horses! But the fact they have no masks is an interesting take.

5. This play was written in the 70s; do you think Ned Bennett has given the production a contemporary feel and how so?
Robert: It is [contemporary] without question. There are many themes, for example, worship, mental health, parenting and family, love and sexuality. There are so many ways it’s very relevant. The fact that it’s set in the 70s, and firmly set in the 70s, but it’s set in the minds of two people and that’s what’s really key here.

6. The run at Theatre Royal Stratford East received critical acclaim and five stars, does this further your excitement for the West End transfer to Trafalgar Studios?
Ethan: It always is [exciting] when you know people are enjoying it but at the same time I think it’s important to not take reviews too seriously. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to accept it’s one person’s opinion. Someone else will come and won’t necessarily have that same experience and you’ve just got to take it as it comes. You’ve got to be in the moment and do what we do as best as we can. If people are enjoying it then that’s gravy.
Robert: Do you feel any pressure because it did get good reviews?
Ethan: Yeah! Of course, there’s going to be a bit of pressure.

7. For audiences who may feel uncomfortable with nudity and the darker elements of this psychological thriller, what makes it worth seeing?
Robert: The play is a really beautiful piece about many things, as I said before, and I think that is timeless. It’s also exciting for the fact it’s directed by Ned Bennett. If you’ve never seen any of his work, I would say he’s worth checking out. He’s a wonderful director!
Ethan: I think I speak on behalf of all us when I say that he [Ned Bennett] has just been phenomenal. He’s so talented and so passionate about the work.

8. Ethan, how did you go about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in order to get naked on stage?
Ethan: When you do 80+ shows there’s an element that you get more comfortable with. If there is any insecurity, then that’s something to use in the scene. Any vulnerability I feel is something I can use for the character. I wouldn’t say I shy away, but as an actor, it’s gotten easier the more I’ve done it. I was definitely nervous before [the first time in rehearsals] but Ned told me the week before so I was like, “ooh it’s coming!”. The night before I was scared but once it was done it was just done and it was quite liberating. I knew if I could get naked in front of a few hundred people then I thought, what else can’t I do? That’s been quite liberating. So, if I get some audition for a Netflix series that requires partial nudity then that’s no problem.

9. And Ethan, This is your first major stage role, was there an extra element of nervousness because of that?
Ethan: The theatre job I did before this was at a beautiful, intimate space with just a 50-person capacity so it's been quite different compared to that. One thing that taught me was how to find ease and relaxation even in these moments of people being close and around you. It’s very tight and there’s nowhere to hide in the space so that helped me quite a lot. That prepared me quite a lot for the physicality of this [Equus]. I went to drama school and trained, and had experience in theatre, so I’ve done enough so that I can go on stage and not be too wobbly. We all get nervous; we’re all human, but it’s not too bad these days. It gets easier the more jobs you do.

10. If they were to do Equus for the screen, do you find you’d be just as nervous for the nudity scene on a closed set?
Ethan: That’d be totally different! It’d offer different challenges with a closed set, but the thing with film is it’s there forever!
Robert: You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of!

11. In just three words, why do you think people should come and see Equus at Trafalgar Studios?
Ethan: Ned Bennett’s production… no. Ned Bennett’s direction!
Robert: Exhilarating. Exciting. And… Thrilling.
Ethan: …Intense! We’ve heard from people who sit close [to the stage] that it can be quite intense!

Peter Shaffer’s Equus is now playing at London’s Trafalgar Studios for a limited engagement, which must come to an end on 7 September 2019, so be sure to book now and avoid missing out. This production has received five stars all-round and is looking to be the show to see this summer already!

🎫 Book your West End tickets to Equus here at affordable prices.

By Jade Ali

A love for theatre stemmed from my love of literature and music, but the West End on my doorstep opened up a whole new appreciation and passion for all things stage-y