In Equus, how does the social and historical context effect the play in terms of keeping the audience engaged and attracted to the play?
We need to remember that this play emerged against a backdrop of immense upheaval in history. Firstly, the oil embargo imposed by Arab members of OPEC resulted in a massive inflation crisis that triggered off an economic recession that was the worst since the Great Depression. In Britain, this led to a feeling of social hopelessness. In addition, the famous British Empire was continuing to become dismantled. The Bahamas gained their independence in 1973 and Britain was having to face the reality of its own decline of power and significance as it moved from being a world power that controlled territory all over the globe to something much less important. This feeling was exacerbated by the movement towards a union in Western European nations.
The play therefore emerged at a time when its British audience were already experiencing much soul-searching and trauma about identity and hardship. It is always in difficult times that we have our understanding of what is and is not reality shaken and we are often forced to take an alternative perspective or point of view at our lives and what we used to think. This is a perfect backdrop therefore to this play, which forces the audience to question so much of what they believe to be true, especially regarding the twin states of sanity and insanity.