LONDON (Reuters) - Daniel Radcliffe shook off the mantle of Harry Potter on Wednesday to win rave reviews for his stage portrayal of a tortured teenager in the grueling psychological thriller “Equus”.
“No flash in the magic pan,” said The Guardian after the London premier of the play which saw the 17-year-old star of the boy wizard movies come of age on the stage.
Radcliffe won praise for his performance but critics argued that Peter Shaffer’s play, first performed in 1973, had not stood the test of time.
Fellow actors like Christian Slater and Richard E.Grant hailed Radcliffe on the first night for taking on such a testing role and the critics agreed.
With much media hype over Radcliffe’s iconic nude scene in the play, advance sales had already topped two million pounds, making the play virtually critic-proof.
And London’s staid Gielgud Theater was besieged every night at previews by adoring teenage fans of Radcliffe.
“Brilliant Radcliffe throws off Harry Potter’s cloak,” The Daily Telegraph said. “He is a thrilling stage actor of unexpected range and depth.”
The Independent was equally warm, saying of Radcliffe “He cuts a compelling figure” in the role of a troubled teen who blinds six horses at the stable where he works. “But he is not that well served by the production.”
“What was striking was the emergence of young Dan Radcliffe in the artistic raw, tested as an actor and found equal to the stretching role,” The Daily Mail said.
Richard Griffiths, who performed the role of Potter’s vile Uncle Vernon in the Potter films, plays the psychiatrist trying to cure the deeply disturbed boy.
Griffiths, warm in praise of Radcliffe afterwards, said: “He has an old head on young shoulders. He has to be regarded in a new way because he is a proper actor.”
Radcliffe, eager to make the tricky transition from child star to adult actor, was fully aware of the risk he was taking.
His hands still shaking after his emotion-charged first night performance, he told Reuters: “It would have been very easy to just do a very similar performance for your entire career.
“Half the excitement of stepping up to do a new role was thinking God I might not be able to do this but I am going to give it a go,” he said.
American theater critic Matt Wolf praised Radcliffe, saying: “I do admire him for taking it on. This is jumping in at the deep end. He makes you forget about Harry Potter but you can’t help wishing he was in a stronger vehicle. It has not stood the test of time.”
Additional reporting by Mirja Spernal