The Elephant Man – Theatre Royal Haymarket

062e73b6-977e-11e4-_833892cThe 1980 film of The Elephant Man starred Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt and became a huge success with eight Oscar nominations after its release. The highly anticipated Broadway Transfer, starring Bradley Cooper has opened its doors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket to allow the crowds to come inside and see the freak show on display.

Joseph Merrick was a man with a disfigurement. So ugly and so bizarre that he was carted around in a freak show with people paying to see the frightful sight of him. When word got around that the freak show was in town, Doctor Frederick Treves went along to check out the creature and paid his keeper to borrow him to run medical tests to discover what was wrong with him. The story sees Joseph Merrick’s growth as a human, learning to speak and live as normal a life as he possibly can until his sad death.

Having seen a very small fringe production of the show earlier this year at the Brockley Jack Studio, I was intrigued to see how it would compare to the huge West End spectacular. Sadly, it left me a little underwhelmed. The story seemed long and drawn out (perphaps because this 90 minute play was stretched over two acts, bringing it to almost two hours unnecessarily) and the multitude of cast members made it hard to really feel empathetic towards any character in particular.

With a cast of fourteen people (the fringe show I saw had only four), I thought money could have been better spent on a new set design (it looks like they have just shipped the Broadway version over which  is too small for the size of the stage at the Theatre Royal Haymarket). Patricia Clarkson was great as Mrs Kendal, the woman who befriends Mr Merrick and goes to any length to make him happy. Alessandro Nivola was good as Frederick Treves, the doctor who takes the Elephant Man into his home to study his deformability in the hope of finding a cure. Bradley Cooper was good and if you’re a fan (as most of the people around me, constantly taking pictures, seemed to be) then you’ll squeal with delight at seeing him on stage. However, if he weren’t in the show, it would be an average production of a classic story. With most of the limited run completely sold out though, I get the feeling no one is really going to see it to judge its artistic Merricks.

Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo:  Joan Marcus

For more information and to book the last few remaining tickets for this run, click here