The Elephant Man

August 12, 2016 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆  Effective

Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14) Aug 3 – 29 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is a straightforward effectiveness to Fringe Management and Canny Creatures’ version of The Elephant Man at the Gilded Balloon that helps it overcome its comparative lack of inspiration.

The true story of Joseph Merrick (here renamed John as is customary in adaptations), shunned by others and exhibited as a fairground freak because of his physical deformities, is of course familiar from stage and screen.

Merrick beaten - Michael Roy Andrew and Nigel Miles-Thomas. Photo: Jack Giuggioli

Merrick beaten – Michael Roy Andrew and Nigel Miles-Thomas. Photo: Jack Giuggioli

This version is billed as being taken from the diaries of Frederick Treves, the doctor who took Merrick in. It breaks little in the way of new ground but is a highly serviceable version nonetheless.

At times the production is overly episodic and prosaic, but tells the story with economy and gives room for the cast to stretch out. Michael Roy Andrew’s Merrick is particularly impressive, suggesting his appearance with little more than a twist of the body, and imbuing the character with considerable grace and pathos.

Gerry Kielty’s Treves is another sympathetic figure, navigating some suspiciously clunky dialogue of the ‘am I a good or a bad man?’ type with panache. Kirsty Eila McIntyre gives a variety of roles sufficient differentiation, while Paul Haley is dignified and restrained as Mr Carr-Gomm, the chair of the hospital where Merrick finds refuge.

workaday

Nigel Miles-Thomas gives the ‘Showman’ who has been exploiting Merrick a frightening air. He threatens to tip the story into Grand Guignol territory, but this provides a welcome contrast to some of the more workaday storytelling and is compelling in itself.

Miles-Thomas also directs with pace, with the device of keeping the cast visible at all times giving events drive and cohesion. As with so many presentations of well-known historical tales, functionality wins out over magic to a large degree, but this remains a satisfying and spirited journey through the story.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14), Teviot Row House, EH8 9AJ
Wednesday 3 – Monday 29 August 2016
Daily at 1.15 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/elephant-man
Company website: http://www.fringemanagement.com/cannycreatures/

ENDS

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