He appears to blind a horse on stage, he is naked and he has to simulate losing his virginity. But what really ruffled feathers yesterday was that Daniel Radcliffe, the 17-year-old star of the Harry Potter films, will smoke on stage in his West End debut.
|Daniel Radcliffe and the offending cigarette|
Photographs show the actor, with stubble and looking more Harry Enfield than Harry Potter, half-way through a cigarette in a scene from Equus, the celebrated Peter Shaffer play in which Radcliffe opens at the Gielgud Theatre on Tuesday.
The image brought immediate condemnation.
Amanda Sandford, a spokesman for Ash, the anti-smoking organisation, said: “It is regrettable that he is smoking, whatever the circumstances. He is a role model for young people and if he decided to take up smoking in real life that would be of great concern.
“Even though it is an act, nicotine is highly addictive and he could find himself hooked.”
David Pugh, the producer of the revival, said: “If they are worried about smoking and not about the fact that he’s simulating sex with a young girl on stage, it makes me think that they’ve got their priorities wrong.
“Daniel smokes in the play. He doesn’t smoke in life. It’s in the script and it always has been. It is not gratuitous. In fact, it’s a very beautiful scene where Alan Strang (played by Radcliffe) is with his psychiatrist. The psychiatrist offers him a cigarette and it’s really the first time the man and boy bond as they talk and smoke.”
The revival is one of the most-talked about West End openings for months. Equus is the spine-chilling story of a psychiatrist treating a young man with a pathological fascination with horses.
It was a huge hit when it opened at the National Theatre in 1973 but the playwright hasn’t let it be revived since, partly because he felt that Peter Firth, the original Alan Strang, might never be equalled.
It took Pugh eight years – and Radcliffe’s performance at a workshop of the play last year – to get Shaffer, now 80, to change his mind.
The Harry Potter effect has been staggering. Each night at previews, some 300 fans of Radcliffe have besieged the stage door. And the play opens with a £2 million advance, meaning that seven of the initial run of 16 weeks, are sold out.
From: UK’s The Telegraph