Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Elephant Woman

Barunka O'Shaughnessy, Lucy Montgomery and James Bachman
New Ambassadors
(2004)

The Elephant Woman West End poster

The Edinburgh Exported Season at the New Ambassadors Theatre allows Londoners to sample the fare that entertained Fringe followers in August.

The melodramatic introductory music and plush set gives a good idea of what The Elephant Woman is about. It is a spoof of the film of a similar name but pokes fun far more widely.

James Bachman's top-hatted Dr Frederick Treves relates a sad tale to the good denizens of the London Hospital. His dry style is reminiscent of Angus Deayton or Chris Tarrant.

With the help of a cast of several, all played by his co-writers, Barunka O'Shaughnessy and Lucy Montgomery, he tells the story of a maimed woman, Anella Fant, who has an Eliza Dolittle-like transformation to nubile (literally), billiard-playing operatic genius.

The ladies play a variety of parts. Miss O'Shaughnessy is at her best as a nurse and scatological Russian ice maiden. Miss Montgomery has a great sense of humour, especially as a rather Artless Dodger and in the title part, shared with her female colleague.

This hour-long playlet can be extremely funny but there are also several misses as repetitious jokes are overly-laboured. A camp Lancastrian Oscar Wilde badly lets the happier moments down.

The real highlights crowd together near the end as we are treated to a wonderfully tragic silent movie scene followed by a very funny elephant stampede.

The effort that has gone into David Sant's production is impressive with some delightful props, especially a well-crafted horse and carriage and several puppets.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher