Bristol Theatre News

The Elephant Man Bristol Old Vic

The Elephant Man Bristol Old Vic:

A new production of Bernard Pomerance’s play The Elephant Man, is currently running at Bristol Old Vic.

It’s an inclusive production, not only casting a disabled actor as Joseph Merrick – The Elephant Man – it also features audience accessibility in some form at each performance including captions, audio description, BSL signing, touch tours and relaxed performances.

Pomerance’s play highlights the views of disability in the past as well as the present. Whilst in 2018 we have come far from Victorian travelling ‘freak shows’, that the casting of a person with a disability in this lead role is probably happening for the first time shows that we still have a long way to go with inclusion in theatre.

The production is a collaboration between the graduating class of 2018 at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s with Bristol Old Vic’s new Associate Company, Diverse City.

It also forms part of the theatre’s Year of Change, which looks at change through ground-breaking theatre and ‘provocative’ city-wide events.

Diverse City’s co-artistic director and disabled actor Jamie Beddard is playing Joseph Merrick.

“This is a really exciting opportunity to be working with drama school graduates and hopefully, by working with someone like me, it will normalise inclusion and exciting approaches to casting,” Jamie said.

“Merrick is also a really iconic part for a disabled performer. In the past, the role of Joseph Merrick has been performed by non-disabled actors, which is really bizarre. It’s time to reclaim The Elephant Man.”

The show features mature themes and some partial male nudity, making it suitable for theatre goers aged 14 years upwards.

“This is a play I have wanted to do for some time,” Director Lee Lyford says.

“In many ways the world has become less tolerant and accepting, and The Elephant Man is about how we dehumanise people that are not like ‘us’ (whatever that means). It also felt essential in this day and age that this disabled character should be played by a disabled actor – it’s about seeing opportunities for representation and taking them.We’re not equating Jamie with Merrick but we are exploring what is at the heart of the play and the character, and Jamie has both the skills and life experience to do this. We’re extremely lucky to have him leading the company.”

The Elephant Man is at Bristol Old Vic until Saturday 07 July 2018.

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