The Elephant Man- Theatre Royal Haymarket

The Elephant Man 

4 / 5

A perfect blend of poignancy, compassion, humour and love of life that is sure to stay with the audience long after they have left.

Bradley Cooper leads a brilliant cast in this hugely successful and critically acclaimed Broadway-to-London play, The Elephant Man. The Elephant Man was a wonderful example of theatre at its best, with crafted performances from all actors, tantalizing subtlety combined with the raw, moving and heart-wrenching moments that coalesce to make this brilliant play.


Cooper does not don prosthetics or extensive use of make-up to become Merrick; he effectively assumes each of the ailments that he is suffering from, read out by Treves, to complete his metamorphoses into the disfigured and freakish elephant man. This physical transformation conveyed before the audience was very successful in outlining his deformities without the use of anything at all. Cooper’s speech, or attempts of speech, combined with his appearance, created someone who was not a Hollywood heartthrob, but someone else entirely. His spluttering attempts of speech not only contained many humorous remarks but also an exposure to his romantic spirit and compassion, which was no better displayed in a touching and affecting moment with Mrs Kendal (Patricia Clarkson). Elephant Man Poster

Although most of the newspaper, blogging and independent critics will focus mainly on Cooper’s performance, which was undoubtedly accomplished, I feel that some more recognition should go to Allesandro Nivola, for his excellent portrayal of the eminent surgeon Frederick Treves. He shows his human willingness to provide as normal life as possible for Merrick while trying to understand his disorder that has afflicted him. However as the play steadily moves on, Treves is confronted by something that makes him question himself and his scientific and rational powers. The renowned surgeon is reduced to a desperate, emotional and distressed man who has seen all that he knows to be, just not quite enough. Treves’ emotional transformation almost mirrors Merrick’s transformation from workhouse freak to intelligent gentleman, Treves meanwhile, was introduced as merely a surgeon looking to help Merrick and to study him, but he became a close friend to him, as evidenced in the final scenes. Those scenes in particular demonstrated Nivola’s brilliant performance, as the audience were beautifully silent and transfixed by the passion and compassion of Nivola’s Treves for Merrick.

Elephant Man Scene

Sitting on the front row of a sold-out matinee performance was a very pleasurable afternoon indeed, this play by Pomerance was perfectly poignant, delicately nuanced and stunningly thought provoking. The effect; was mesmerising. The production was polished to the finest detail, even the scene changes were choreographed brilliantly, and every actor’s performance was on point. For those of you that are lucky enough to see this play, I envy you. I would have loved another opportunity to see this marvellous play that shows how magical theatre can be. Elephant Man TRH

The Elephant Man is a movingly humane play which is founded on Merrick’s painstaking attempts to express himself, interspersed with his hampered breathing and gulps of air, that not only draw attention to Cooper’s significant technical skill, but to Merrick’s unsuspecting intelligence, passion for life, his tenderness, his subtle humour, and his loving spirit. The Elephant Man encapsulates all of this to deliver a very good performance, one which will leave a lasting impression on all of its watching audiences.


10 thoughts on “The Elephant Man- Theatre Royal Haymarket

    • I try to go to a London Theatre once a year. I wanted to get a ticket for Hamlet with Cumberbatch in, but they sold out ridiculously quick! I entered the theatre’s competition of winning some tickets for it, so there’s still hope. 🙂

      • Great idea! I go to local theatres a lot, there’s one in Colchester (The Mercury) near where I live that puts on absolutely amazing performances. Definitely my favourite theatre in Essex. Journey’s End and The Grapes of Wrath were both so brilliant and emotional I actually cried!

        I’m going to see The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre in December which I can’t wait for! I tried Matilda the Musical at one of the London theatres a few years back but it just confirmed what I’d always thought…..I can’t stand musicals!!!!

        Give me a good play any day 🙂

        Any favourite playwrights or performances?

        And I really hope you get the chance to Benedict Cabbagepatch in Hamlet!!!!! I’ll cross my fingers for you (albeit briefly) 🙂

      • I read Journey’s End while at school and have always wanted to see it at a theatre. I can imagine everyone leaving The Woman in Black either in silence or quite loudly…
        Arthur Miller is perhaps my favourite playwright. I studied Death of a Salesman and A View from a Bridge, and I went to the Old Vic, London last year to see Richard Armitage in The Crucible which was the best stage performance I have ever seen!!

      • Oh go and see it!! You will not be disappointed, so long as it was done well I suppose.

        I’ve wanted to see The Woman in Black for years and it’s my birthday in December the big “3-0” so it’s kind of a treat 🙂

        I’ve seen A View from the Bridge!!!!! At that same theatre, The Mercury. Where that guy is kind of in love with his niece and it all gets really nasty? (my philistine-version synopsis!) I really enjoyed it though. I’ve not seen any other Arthur Miller plays and to be honest the only nothing thing I can offer is….wasn’t he married to Marilyn Monroe? Haha 🙂

        I’ll look up the Richard Armitage, The Crucible!! Sounds interesting!!!

      • P.S I love the story of The Elephant Man, it’s so fascinating. I’ve always been marginally obsessed with the sensitive yet cursed man. The David Lynch movie is really good too! (except the weird elephant rape haha)

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