Last night I had the privilege of seeing The Elephant Man, starring Bradley Cooper.
I had read some great reviews about it, and from all accounts it seemed that Mr. Cooper’s acting chops were good enough to survive the West End stage… so I thought I would find out for myself.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Cooper’s, but I have to say in this play he is simply brilliant. For those not familiar, The Elephant Man is based on the life of Joseph Merrick, a London man who was born with such deformities he was put in a travelling freak show. A movie by the same name was made in 1980, involving massive prosthesis and make-up to make the actor look deformed. This play however, doesn’t use any make-up, extra costuming or masks… it is simply Cooper adjusting his posture and facial expressions for the entire performance. This is done so well… in the first act we see Dr. Treves (played by Alessandro Nivola) pointing out features on enlarged pictures of the real Joseph Merrick, while at the same time Cooper adjusts his body accordingly.
The play also stars Patricia Clarkson who plays Mrs. Kendal, an actress and the only outsider who is not initially terrified of Merrick’s appearance. Through this friendship you see The Elephant Man become ‘humanised’ for want of a better word, and this is where Cooper draws you in. He expresses his vulnerability and you begin to relate to him, and feel sorry for him. It is actually a rather emotionally charged play, there were plenty of sniffles throughout the crowd, but also a lot of laughs, as Merrick has quite a witty tongue on him!
The only downside of the night was where we were seated.. The Haymarket is a very large theatre and our seats were up in the Gallery.. .which is a long way up!! It felt like we were IN the roof. Which at times was a little hard to take as it was packed up there as well, so not a lot of air flow and with bench seating, we were almost leaning down on the stage. Luckily, we were able to move during interval to a lower level on the side, where were able to actually see the actors’ faces! We did only pay £15 for these tickets though, so I really shouldn’t complain!
The show is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until August 8th. If you are in London and you haven’t been, try and get there you won’t be disappointed!