Play by Bernard Pomerance. Set in Victorian London. John Merrick, due to the extreme deformity of his body, becomes known as 'The Elephant Man' and is the star of the traveling freak show circuit. But then the renowned Dr Treves takes Merrick under his care... Based on the true story of the life of Joseph 'John' Merrick.
The Elephant Man - Original London Production (Hampstead Theatre) - 1977
Previewed 3 November 1977, Opened 7 November 1977, Closed 24 December 1977 at the Hampstead Theatre
The cast featured David Schofield as 'John Merrick', David Allister as 'Frederick Treves' and Jennie Stoller as 'Mrs Kendal'. Directed by Roland Rees with sets by Tanya McCallin, lighting by Alan O'Toole and music by Pat Arrowsmith.
The Elephant Man - London Revival (National Theatre) - 1980
Previewed 11 July 1980, Opened 15 July 1980, Closed 6 June 1981 (in repertory) at the NT Lyttelton Theatre
Presented by the National Theatre, this was a restaged version of the 1977 Hampstead Theatre version with a similiar cast. The original cast featured David Schofield as 'John Merrick', Peter McEnery as 'Frederick Treves' and Jennie Stoller as 'Mrs Kendal'. During the run Nicky Henson took over as 'Frederick Treves'. Directed by Roland Rees with sets by Tanya McCallin, costumes by Lindy Hemming, lighting by Gerry Jenkinson, music by Pat Arrowsmith and sound by Derrick Zieba.
The Elephant Man - Original West End Production (Haymarket Theatre) - 2015
Previewed 19 May 2015, Opened 26 May 2015, Closed 8 August 2015 at the Haymarket Theatre Royal
This production transfers to the West End following an acclaimed sold-out run on Broadway.
The cast features Bradley Cooper as 'John Merrick', Alessandro Nivola as 'Dr Frederick Treves' and Patricia Clarkson as 'Mrs Kendal' with Anthony Heald, Scott Lowell, Kathryn Meisle and Henry Stram along with Chris Bannow, Peter Bradbury, Lucas Calhoun, Eric Clem, Amanda Lea Mason, Marguerite Stimpson and Emma Thorne. Directed by Scott Ellis with designs by Timothy R. Mackabee, costumes by Clint Ramos, lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg and music and sound by John Gromada. Please note - may be inappropriate for those aged 11 and under.
When this production opened here at the Haymarket Theatre in London in May 2015, Michael Billington in the Guardian wrote "Even if the play never gets to grips with Victorian society's complex attitude to evolution, it is well presented in Scott Ellis's production." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard described it as being a "somewhat sluggish revival of Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 portrait of Victorian hypocrisy," adding that "Scott Ellis’s production emphasises the theatricality of Joseph 'John' Merrick's short life, with sliding panels and whooshing curtains... but even as Bradley Cooper rises to the physical and vocal challenges, he can't obscure the creakiness of the material with which he's working." Neil Norman in the Daily Express highlighted that "Bradley Cooper emerges triumphant in the role of Joseph 'John' Merrick... [in] this compassionate and intelligent play." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times said that, although "the play itself is a flimsy thing. Subject and star combine to make an impressive hook, but there’s precious little to hang on it." Dominic Maxwell in the Times commented that "there is really only one reason for seeing this imported Broadway smash hit, but it's a good one: Bradley Cooper... if Scott Ellis's overpolite production can't sell us entirely on Bernard Pomerance's episodic mix of Victorian melodrama and Pygmalion-like transformation, it all clicks when Bradley Cooper is centre stage... yet when its star is off stage, this chamber piece slumps." Paul Taylor in the Independent praised how Bradley Cooper gives "a wonderfully humane yet wholly unsancimonious performance where each aspect, such as the painstakingly correct speech that issues in laboured breaths and gulps, is designed to draw attention not to the actor's technical skill (which is considerable) but to Merrick's unembittered openness to life, his gentleness, questioning humour, and romantic spirit." Ben Lawrence in the Daily Telegraph wrote that "Bradley Cooper is touching and unshowy in the title role and, together with co-star Alessandro Nivola, completely carries Scott Ellis's sluggishly directed production." Rod McPhee in the Daily Mirror thought that "the action often moving at such a lick that some of the sadness of the original story is lost and the final scene should be more heartbreaking than it is. But none of these flaws are down to Bradley Cooper, whose skill as an actor ensures The Elephant Man is a play about humanity, not another freak show." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail said that although "the show itself may not be quite five-star material... Cooper's performance lifts it into the top division."
"First seen naked save for a pair of soiled shorts, Cooper uses neither prosthetics nor make-up to create the role but slowly assumes the postures shown on a screen during a lecture by Merrick's saviour, the surgeon Frederick Treves. His is a very effective, and affecting, physical performance, although his over-enunciated vowels, while presumably deliberate, are disconcerting... Scott Ellis's elegant, fluid production brings a highly accomplished American cast to London. Henry Stram is warm and wise as the hospital director, and Patricia Clarkson brave and moving as the actress who initiates Merrick in the beauty of the female body. Alessandro Nivola gives the performance of the evening as the increasingly desperate Dr Frederick Treves." The Sunday Express
"Cooper is put through the mill, physically and mentally, in Scott Ellis's otherwise stilted revival of Bernard Pomerance's thinnish play... A sympathetic Cooper plays Merrick as one of nature's gentlemen (equally unlikely given the brutality and cruelty he has endured); sensitive, intelligent, twisted in body but not in mind. He's certainly the best reason for seeing this show... Alessandro Nivola is a somewhat impenetrable Dr Frederick Treves, partly because he, and the rest of the cast, resemble clockwork toys, stiffly wound to walk tall and talk in clipped upper-class English that sounds like their second language, as indeed it is." The Mail on Sunday
The Elephant Man in London at the Theatre Royal Haymarket Theatre previewed from 19 May 2015, opened on 26 May 2015 and closed on 8 August 2015.