Monash Placement / The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man

18 August 2017

The life of Joseph Merrick has inspired books, a film, an award-winning Broadway play and many historical and medical accounts. It is a  story that has been exploited countless times, as much by the freak show managers on the road as the doctors who would eventually find sanctuary for him at the London Hospital. Merrick paid for this sanctuary through innumerable tests, the examination of his body, and ultimately with his skeleton, which still rests in the renamed Royal London Hospital.

The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man comes to Malthouse Theatre from Artistic Director Matthew Lutton and writer Tom Wright.  Rather than another story congratulating a noble doctor for taking pity on the Elephant Man, Wright questions how we as a society treat and interact with people whose bodies are unlike our own. Being apart of the Monash directing placement on this project, I have had the tremendous pleasure of watching this piece develop and grow during the rehearsal process. Being privy to the thoroughness and intensity of a professional rehearsal process has been an invaluable experience for me as a young theatre maker and being up-close to creatives whose work I admire has been inspiring. 

Watching the immensely talented cast endeavour tirelessly to create this piece has been incredible to watch. However, it has been their generosity and heart that has impacted me the most. Daniel Monks has met and exceeded the massive challenge of the titular role with a conviction and strength that should be commended. The wonderful supporting cast of Paula Arundell, Julie Forsyth, Emma Hawkins and Sophie Ross have created a foundation and a space for the work that enables the key ideas and questions to flourish.