The Elephant Man – Fringe Management and Canny Creatures Scotland
3rd-29th August, 13:15
Gilded Balloon Teviot, Wine Bar (Venue 14)
Adapted from the diaries of Frederick Treves, Fringe Management and Canny Creatures Scotland have created a show with an insight into the life of the famous Elephant Man. However, this particular version of the story lacks a certain level of effectiveness.
Set in 19th century London and based on the true story of John Merrick, otherwise known as the Elephant Man, who was displayed in a freak show for his physical deformities. It was here that Frederick Treves, a surgeon from the London Hospital, discovers Merrick and takes him to the hospital to help him escape the exploitation of the freak show. Treves subsequently discovers that Merrick can speak, read and write, just like anyone else. From here on it becomes clear that Merrick is a kind-hearted man and not the ‘monster’ he was portrayed as.
The minimalistic set combined with a simple projection of period appropriate images to differentiate between the various locations was a nice touch. Similarly the original score by Roi Robertson was one of the highlights of the show as it perfectly set the scene.
Whilst every actor was well-cast in their part, Michael Roy Andrew as John Merrick far outshone the rest. His portrayal of Merrick was simple yet effective in conveying the physicality of the Elephant Man and his terrified and vulnerable nature.
As a show, The Elephant Man is a great idea as it offers a window into a different time when people with slight deformities were viewed as ‘monsters’. However, this particular performance, whilst being well-casted, was at times forgettable. This was largely because there were certain parts of the play that weren’t well explained and it wasn’t clear what happened.
The Elephant Man is an emotional piece of theatre which was, for the most part, well-acted but was fundamentally damaged by issues with the writing where the delivery of the story was sacrificed by a desire to include the entire narrative.