The tragic and moving story of John Merrick will be recreated on a stage in Lichfield this month.
The Elephant Man will be presented by Different Animal Theatre, continuing its trend of tackling challenging, entertaining and diverse pieces of theatre.
Director Dan Branch said: “I imagine most people will be familiar with the story of The Elephant Man via the David Lynch film starring John Hurt. Bernard Pomerance’s play was written and first performed a couple of years before this. It was extremely well-received and went on to win a Tony Award.
“The play is extremely moving, as it deals with Merrick’s time as an object of voyeuristic pleasure in Victorian ‘freak shows’ as well as his time amongst the rich and famous of the day. Despite these weighty issues, there is still humour to be found in the many characters Merrick meets and, in particular, his razor-sharp wit when faced with society’s many hypocrisies and contradictions.”
The role of Merrick has been played in recent years by Mark Hamill, David Bowie and, in the recent Broadway revival, Bradley Cooper (who in the same year was voted the world’s most attractive man).
All the performances of Merrick are notable for not using any form of prosthetic make-up to portray the role. Instead the actors solely rely on a punishing use of stage physicality.
Dan explained: “The play itself is structured into short, titled vignettes that chart the course of John Merrick’s life. One of the biggest challenges has been how to link these short scenes together into a satisfying whole. Much of the solution to this problem has come via the original music composed, played and sung by Ellie Galvin.”
Different Animal’s production uses a range of theatrical devices to tell the story of John Merrick. These include audio-visual imagery, actors playing multiple roles, music, song, an extremely complex sound design, as well as a brief moment of shadow puppetry.
The Elephant Man marks Different Animal’s fourth production at the Lichfield Garrick studio following well-received performances of Blue Remembered Hills, The 39 Steps and Be My Baby. It features Chris Stanley, Patrick Jervis, Ian Davies, Ellie Galvin, Becky Hyland, Jen Austin and Robin Lewett as Merrick.
The play runs from September 17 to 21 at 7.30pm in the Garrick Studio. Tickets are £12/£10 students, £8 for school bookings of 10-plus. To book call 01543 412121 or visit www.lichfieldgarrick.com.