Mar 12, 2018

Elephant Men

Joseph or John Merrick (1862-1890) suffered from severe facial and body deformities that caused him to be exploited by Victorian showmen, put on display as "The Elephant Man."  A physician named Frederick Trewes arranged for him to live at London Hospital, visited him daily, and became a close friend.  His case drew the interest of London society, and near the end of his life he was receiving many visitors, including the Princess Alexandra.

Bernard Pomerance's 1979 play The Elephant Man makes Merrick's story into a commentary on the nature of beauty.  It ups the gay subtext and the heterosexism (a kindly lady even disrobes so that Merrick can see her nude body).  However, since Pomerance stated that the actor playing Merrick should not wear any prosthetics, conveying the deformities only through body and facial movements, there is plenty of opportunity for beefcake.

Dale Moore in the Chester, New Jersey production.

Robert Bell in Adelaide performs with a photo of the real John Merrick.

You don't see many productions in high schools, as the role is very demanding, but A. J. Black at Lehi High School in Utah is giving it a try.

Windward Community College in Hawaii.

Tom Cornish, Queens Theater.

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