The Elephant Man

The ELEPHANT MAN is the moving, poetic and ultimately uplifting story of the life of John Merrick. PROTEUS has created a version for the 21st Century – a highly physical, one man tour-de-force, which explores the journey of this remarkable man, from an object of curiosity and social revulsion to celebrity. His life and tragic destiny is as relevant today in our image obsessed culture as it ever was. His life and tragic destiny is as relevant today in our image obsessed culture as it ever was, Merrick’s story provokes us to examine our own attitudes and the value we place on ‘beauty’.

They always say that the most remarkable stories are the true ones, and the story of Joseph Carey Merrick, The Elephant Man, is certainly that. Like most stories that everyone thinks they know, a little scratching of the surface reveals many more twists and turns. The heroes and villains are revealed as complex, compassionate, selfish and flawed – real people in fact, which is exactly what they were.

The production first premiered and toured in the Spring of 2007, and later in the year enjoyed a successful run at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, before continuing to tour to further venues in 2008.  Following critical acclaim, The Elephant Man has been performed at The Globe and in late 2009 was selected to be part of the Brits off Broadway Festival in New York, taking Proteus’ work internationally.

A technical and artistic masterpiece

- The Stage

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Merrick’s story continues to fascinate long after his death, and I think we are drawn to him because he constantly makes us re-evaluate our own attitudes. He became the darling of Victorian society, a major celebrity, and a visit to his rooms at The Royal London Hospital for tea became a ‘must-do’ for any self-respecting ‘A’ lister at the time. Our current obsession with celebrity and ‘reality’ stars makes it quite possible that Joseph Merrick would be gracing the pages of ‘Hello’ magazine if he lived among us now.

Directed by Mary Swan
Devised and written by Mary Swan and Saul Jaffé
Performed by Saul Jaffé
Designed by Same Pine
Music by Paul Wild
Aerial Choreography by Lorraine Moynighan

Sadly, there are many with Proteus Syndrome, the condition that Merrick suffered from, living amongst us now. Modern medicine can do much more to slow the onslaught of the condition, but it is still as devastating and life threatening as it was to Merrick. Joseph Merrick died aged 27, but many Proteus Syndrome sufferers die even earlier due to the myriad complications created by the condition. There is still no cure, and although doctors now think that the condition is caused by a genetic mutation, and know that it is not hereditary, there is precious little known about a disease which any child can be born with.

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