A radically rethought version of the story of Joseph Merrick – Victorian Society's celebrated "Elephant Man" - arrives at Blackpool Grand (October 17-21) as part of a European premiere run. Described as a "theatre-poem", The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man features a cast composed entirely of disabled, deaf and/or neurodivergent actors led by Zak Ford-Williams (BBC1’s Better, A Christmas Carol, Wolfe) as Joseph Merrick.
Known best through director David Lynch's famous 1980 movie version of the story, Merrick was born in Leicestershire in August 1862 and at the age of five began to show signs of a strange disorder that caused abnormal growths of much of the skin and bone across his body – including the size of his head increasing to three feet in circumference. He joined a freak show, came to the attention of London society and was visited by many prominent people, and eventually succumbed to his deformities and died in his sleep of accidental suffocation at the age of 27.
Australian Tom Wright's play premieres at Nottingham Playhouse (September 16-October 7), where director Stephen Bailey said: "Tom's inspired restyling of Joseph's unique life sees him not as a medical specimen but as a man. It uses beautiful, poetic text to ask probing questions about work, industrialisation and the value of life."
Zak Ford-Williams said: “I was transfixed from the moment I read it. Then as soon as I experienced Stephen’s vision, precision and warmth for the play, I was desperate to be on board. It’s a challenge and a gift of a role.”
More info and tickets here