equus revisited: part four

Part four of my Afterword to the 2009 Old Stile Press illustrated edition of Peter Shaffer’s Equus.

Page opening
The horses in this version of Equus are sometimes recognisable animals, sometimes the hybrid man/horse/god of Alan’s imagination and Dysart’s fearful reflection. In places they become brutalised beasts, lingering near the text like apparitions haunting their tormentor. Significantly, Shaffer never mentions the fate of the blinded animals, though the implication must be that they were destroyed. Absences like these allow an artist to slip into the gap, to illuminate rather than illustrate.
Page opening
In Equus Peter Shaffer created a play that became an iconic presence in twentieth-century theatre. It has been challenging, in the strangest way, to direct the play at last. This edition has been a collaborative venture from the start. Nicolas and Frances are my sternest critics and greatest supporters. I greatly appreciate them in both roles. Callum James had the generosity to share his original idea. I owe much to Simon Callow (Shaffer’s original Amadeus), who helped me dissect the text, discussing it in lengthy e-mails and bringing his insights to bear on my understanding of the characters. Having seen him on stage in the role of Dysart, I always heard Simon’s magnificent voice when I summoned the character to mind. And finally there is Peter Wakelin, who tirelessly navigates my ship through all too frequently choppy waters and who, without dissent, allowed his likeness to be used throughout this book. Such are the ways of creativity. He is not as sinister as I’ve made him look.
C.H.-J. 2009
Page opening
Study of Peter made for Equus. Conté pencil and acrylic ink.

A play by Sir Peter Shaffer
with imagery by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Main Edition: 200 copies (1-200) 
Special Edition: 10 copies (I-X)
Signed by the playwright and the artist.

Contact The Old Stile Press  to purchase.

Publishing History
Equus first published by Andre Deutsch, 1974
Copyright Peter Shaffer 1973
Three plays first published in Penguin Books 1976
This edition published in 2009 by The Old Stile Press
Images by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Designed by Nicolas McDowall
The images were printed by Nicolas McDowall at The Old Stile Press
The Bodoni types were printed by J. W. Nortend Ltd, Sheffield
Bound at The Fine Bindery
ISBN: 13 987-0-907664-83-3
Edition of 200 copies
Special Edition of 10 copies
Limited edition lino-print, one of several extras included in the Special Edition
Click on Equus in the topics box to view past posts about the making of the book.

10 thoughts on “equus revisited: part four

  1. A “dissection” of the text is possible only when the text is deep, wise and keeps different layers…

    I’ve watched Equus a long time ago – when I studied in the National Academy for Theatre and Film arts in Sofia… I remember it was a very impressive performance! I should read the play again – I’m curious to see how I’ll feel it today!

    Your drawings have a special, strong impact!:)

    • The play is certainly rich in ideas. In the theatre the strange, dark violence of the subject is a gift to actors and directors, and was no less of a gift to me as an artist.

      Thank you for telling me how much you like what I made for the edition. That means a lot to me. The book didn’t find especial favour with collectors when it was published, the general consensus being it was very dark emotionally and therefore difficult, which I wouldn’t argue with. Though the book has been slow to sell I’ve had much positive feedback, and I know I couldn’t have made a better job of the images than I did. Would I do it differently now, five years on? Of course I would, though it would be no less dark.

      • I feel bitterness in your words.. But you did a great job! Your drawings are impressive – somehow rough, in black and white, in accordance with the text. There’s no place for colours there…

        P.S. If you want to see bright colours – I’ve posted lots of photos from my stay in Kenya!:D

        • No, not bitterness. I’m just trying to tell it as it is. The play is difficult, but that’s a part of why I was attracted to it. I’m content that the illustrated edition has its admirers, and I’m content that I did good work on it and served the text. I was proud to be the one who was asked. It sells slowly but regularly, and I’m happy with that. I heard from Peter Shaffer that he loved the images, and no opinion is more important to me than his.

          But now I’ve done the cover image for the forthcoming Penguin Classics edition too, which will reach a very wide audience, and that has made me very happy!

          Kenya look WONDERFUL! What a joyous project!

          • Good luck!
            In one of my late comments to your recent posts I wrote that by me, having been a director gives you a different approach to analysing the literaray material you are going to illustrate. It was so interesting to follow your thought…

            Oh, Kenya – it’s a feast of colours!!!

            • I’ve been thinking about you recently. I’m just starting on a new project for the Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra. The artistic director of the orchestra has commissioned composer Mark Bowden and librettist Damian Walford Davies to make a music/theatre piece based on my 2001 series of drawings, The Mare’s Tale. When premiered I will be creating the staged elements of the production, for which I’ll be returning to my old craft of puppetry. Very exciting!

  2. Absolutely beautiful books Clive. Way out of my pocket money spending I’m afraid. But I do appreciate the love and effort that goes into creating them. Just exquisitely produced.

    I also enjoyed looking at the other books you and Nicolas at Old Style Press produced. Lovely work. Favourite from Equus is the image at the top of this posting. I love the mysterious look, sad and sinister all at the same time, and yet still such a noble head. And the study of Peter …fab!

    • Many thanks, Jacqui. Yes, the sums are not insignificant, though I always think it strange that a single print from almost any artist-illustrated private press book, when printed separately in a numbered edition and offered framed, is invariably more expensive than the entire book for which it was originally made, even if that book is filled with many relief-printed images. This is a little-known fact, and one that economically makes the collecting of artist-illustrated private press books a particularly interesting and relatively unexplored field.

      A quirk of the market I guess.

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