Review: The Elephant Man, Sheringham Little Theatre
- Credit: Archant
The Elephant Man
Sheringham Little Theatre
Think of this classic tale of a disfigured man's freak show to fame journey and you see local acting legend John Hurt enhanced by hours of prosthetic movie set make up .
But this 'am dram' stage production rips the mask off that - but also reveals the soul of the man inside the deformed body of Victorian John Merrick.
'Dram' it certainly is - with moments of power and poignancy. 'Am' it certainly is not - with some stunning individual performances, spearheaded by Matt Scantlebury in the lead role for the Cromer and Sheringham Operatic and Dramatic Society's first offering in its centenary year.
Once the sack comes off his head, he relies on a twisted face, curled arm, bent leg and gurgled speech to remind us of his condition - helped by projected slides from the era.
- 1 'Once in a lifetime catch' - man lands monster fish in Norfolk
- 2 Music-loving dad whose ashes were fired into festival crowd took own life
- 3 Council leader arrested after suspected drink driving on Christmas Day
- 4 Meet the new team behind revamped village pub
- 5 Norfolk man amongst UK's 12 most wanted
- 6 Doctors baffled by teenager's horrific long Covid symptoms
- 7 Woman in 40s airlifted to hospital after suffering medical emergency
- 8 One person taken to hospital after three-car crash on A47
- 9 Seven of the oldest Norfolk businesses
- 10 Obituary: Doctor, and son of Norwich's recycling empire founder, dies aged 69
But the accomplished young actor himself projects the intelligence, sensitivity, and wit of the free-thinking romantic trapped inside a tortured body.
Keeping up such a high intensity physical and mental role throughout the play is worthy of an awards nomination.
But he was ably supported by the cast that spark off him, particularly Peter Howell as the suave surgeon Frederick Treves who 'saved' Merrick from his circus freak show existence.
The play, directed by Martin Rodwell, uses simple, clever staging to tell the poignant tale of a man who suffered beatings as a child in a workhouse, and made a 'I am not an animal, I am a human being' cry for help during his freak show years.
His new life in a hospital home saw his confidence and personality blossom to attract VIP visitors from the world of showbusiness and royalty, while be became the catalyst for many to re-evaluate their lives and beliefs.
There were moments of foggy dialogue, stodgy plot and the odd dodgy accent, but overall this was a compelling and thought-provoking telling of a moving story, whose mammoth lead role alone deserved a bigger audience than the first night delivered.
The show runs until Saturday.