The Elephant Man
John Merrick's short and tragic life is brought to the stage in a well-meaning yet flawed, production
This article is from 2016.
Perhaps best known from David Lynch's 1980 film starring John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins, as well as the more recent Broadway revival starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Scott Ellis, the story of John Merrick (or Joseph Merrick as he was actually named), is a powerful true-life tale of human perseverance in the face of adversity. While Canny Creatures Scotland clearly have affection for the material, the production, despite some heartening moments, shies too far from greatness to be memorable.
Cruelly exhibited as a monster in a freak show by showman Sam Torr, John Merrick is discovered by surgeon Frederick Treves, who takes him in at the London Hospital and introduces him to the society that once feared him so much. He learns of the kindness of strangers, the affection of women and, much to his disbelief, a glimpse of what it is like to be at one with humanity.
The performances are uneven and the relationships between most of the characters a little incoherent. But Michael Roy Andrew is fantastic as the terrorised Elephant Man, bringing a physicality and intensity to the role that lifts the piece to heights it perhaps otherwise would not reach.
Some scenes are touching and very well-measured, particularly as the show reaches its climax. The realisation that he, John Merrick, could be accepted into this world is very powerful, but the piece is plagued by too many forgettable moments and relies too heavily on Michael Roy Andrew's performance.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 29 Aug, 1.15pm, £10.50–£13 (£8–£10).