The Elephant Man
Canny Creatures and Fringe Management
Gilded Balloon Teviot
In the gloom of late 19th century London, in a backstreet freakshow, the famous and tragically deformed figure of Joseph Merrick was first met by the surgeon Frederick Treves, who would go on to house him, while making great study of his ailments.
Using Treves's own diaries as a basis for its own adaptation, Canny Creatures has built a poignant and moving tale of a fragile and emotional yet meek and kind man, caught in the whims of well intentioned but unwittingly parasitic surgeons, rich society debutants and his own greedy ex-showmaster.
It's a good adaptation of the source, minimally staged with only a stretched canvas, with projected period newspaper imagery to indicate each scene change leaving the actors to make the most of each scene, from loud exchanges to minor changes in facial expression and mood.
The cast are uniformly good, with the exceptional standout of Michael Roy Andrew as Merrick himself, eschewing any form of physical props and acting the diabilities through contortions of stance and face while still managing to bring great emotion to the part.
The piece manages to inform and entertain in equal measure and is only held back by the feeling that this adaptation is rather too close to the history and, as a result, some of the scenes feel included by necessity and are rushed over.
Still, a solid piece of fringe theatre which will leave the audience moved and thoughtful.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan