British theatre fans rejoiced when they heard that Bradley Cooper was coming to the West End for a limited UK run of 'The Elephant Man'; a seventies play which made its last revival more than 10 years ago. It's safe to say the UK audience were left just as satisfied as the Broadway spectators, and just as emotionally drained.
I've never seen the play in the past, so my only point of reference was David Lynch's iconic black and white 1980 biopic, which explored the life of John Merrick in all its harrowing destitution. Having recently watched the spectacular revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Cats' and been shocked by how unfamiliar the characters felt, I was therefore left completely gobsmacked when Bradley Cooper opened his mouth and John Hurt's voice came out - totally spot on. All the familiarity you could ask for from a revival play. And his was the only British accent from an American actor during the entire play that never faltered; a remarkable feat given the acute discomfort he must've been feeling throughout.
The play is famous for its avoidance of a mask to imitate the extreme deformity of John Merrick, and so Cooper was forced to maintain an unpleasantly contorted face, stance, gait and hand throughout his time on stage; such dedication that becomes starkly astounding when you try it yourself for just five minutes. There was some initial disappointment when you realised there'd be no Hallowe'en mask, but that dissipated almost immediately - along with the initial chuckles over Cooper's funny face. By the end, you were convinced that the actor was indeed suffering with the same debilitating defects, so when his visage snapped back to the usual handsome features during the standing ovation, it was a startling switch back to reality.
Irina Shayk - Irina Shayk arrives at her hotel in an evening gown after watching 'The Elephant Man' at Theatre Royal Haymarket at CENTRAL LONDON, Theatre Royal Haymarket - London, United Kingdom - Tuesday 26th May 2015
Ed Westwick - The opening of the National Theatre's production of Great Britain at the Theatre Royal Haymarket - Arrivals at Theatre Royal, Haymarket, Theatre Royal Haymarket - London, United Kingdom - Friday 26th September 2014
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