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Lichfield is currently basking in a golden age of theatre.
Although nominally amateur the local theatre scene is actually fuelled by gifted professionals who just happen to do other stuff during the day. Recent high spots have included Intimate Theatre’s The Old Country and the Players’ My Boy Jack.
But now Different Animal’s The Elephant Man has topped even these peaks to complete a hat-trick of sophisticated local successes.
We’re all familiar with the famous David Lynch film but Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 play digs deeper. Here we see the poor degraded John Merrick rescued from brutalisation, but the play’s second act becomes a meditation upon what is normal, in body, in spirit, in manners, morals, and mores, in fact what it is to be truly human.
Dan Branch’s technically adventurous production is a master class in direction, his actors seamlessly multi-tasking in a wide range of roles to bring this poignant tale to life.
Patrick Jervis is marvellous as the compassionate doctor who rescues poor Merrick but whose limitations are those of the Victorian era itself. Rebecca Hyland beautifully portrays the kind-hearted Mrs. Kendal who realises that poor Merrick, so long treated as repellent, longs for the kind company of a woman. Chris Stanley is memorable both as Merrick’s jailer and also as a pompous bishop, while Ian Davies readily spans the range from posh and haughty to downright common. Jen Austen similarly proves she can play both high and low right up to princess level, while the multi-tasking Ellie Galvin performs her own musical contributions with aplomb.
But among even this superb fresh as a daisy cast Robin Lewitt stands out with his deeply moving portrayal of poor deformed John Merrick in a performance which is a real tour de force.
This is a brilliant production of a wonderful play, brilliantly directed, marvellously performed. Go and see it.
The Elephant Man runs at the Lichfield Garrick studio until Saturday (September 21). For tickets phone the box office on 01543 412121 or go online at www.lichfieldgarrick.com.
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