When Daniel Radcliffe first opened in Equus, currently running at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre, he frankly admitted to an unusual problem: his penis got stage fright. As he told the New York Times at the time, he suffered from what he called Michelangelo’s David Effect, and said that David “wasn’t very well endowed, because he was fighting Goliath. There was very much of that effect. You tighten up like a hamster. The first time it happened, I turned around and went, ‘You know, there’s a thousand people here, and I don’t think even one of them would expect you to look your best in this situation.’ “
One leading London critic duly mocked him, writing that “never in modern times has such excitement been stirred by the prospect of viewing a very few inches of adolescent male flesh”; but as I suggested at the time, I was sure that young Daniel could rise to the occasion, so to speak, far more impressively than this limp criticism.
And it turns out that he can, in every sense.
When I was in New York last week, I heard three separate reports from people who had recently seen the play there, one as recently as last Saturday’s matinee, that there was a definite stirring of his loins that saw him stiffening his resolve, so to speak, in the pivotal nude scene.
Mind you, when I shared this news with the Daily Mail’s showbusiness correspondent Baz Bamigboye on Saturday evening, he asked me how one could tell the difference with a white boy - though he then admitted, “I’ve not seen a white boy’s penis since I was about 11”.
Actually, he must have been looking away a lot when he’s been to the theatre in that case. In the Donmar Warehouse’s 2002 premiere of Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out, for instance, there was a lot to see: as Paul Taylor noted in his Independent review at the time, “You can forget The Full Monty. If it’s an extended view of male dangly bits you’re after, then Take Me Out is just the show for you. Privates are frequently on parade in the locker-room and full-frontal shower scenes.”
When that play transferred to Broadway, a friend told me that the matinee ladies around him gasped during this scene - and he lent over to one and said, “Yes, they really do come in that size!” But they did, at least in the performance I saw, remain limp; which is more than could be said when Eddie Izzard appeared naked in Lenny, the play about Lenny Bruce that played at the Queen’s Theatre in 1999, and had to simulate sex with Elizabeth Berkley - and visibly proved to have been unusually stimulated when I saw it.
It was, as Charles Spencer might have put it, “pure theatrical viagra” - and indeed Charlie did, in his Telegraph review at the time, find that “Elizabeth Berkley momentarily revived my flagging attention with a welcome strip routine as Lenny’s wife.”
But while Izzard’s (and Charlie’s) priapic stirrings may have been involuntary but understandable, I also heard that during the 1995 run of another play, Burning Blue, set in the US military and that featured an extended scene of male nudity at the Haymarket, the producer had to tell his cast to stop “fluffing” before they went onstage, as their efforts to out grow each other were leading to scenes of near pornographic excess.