Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 play The Elephant Man will open at Adelaide’s Arts Theatre on April 14 in a stunning start to The Rep’s 2016 season.

The play tells the true story of Joseph Merrick, famously known as “the Elephant Man” for L-R Steve Marvanek and Robert Bell in The Elephant Man for Adelaide Rephis hideous physical deformities who rose from sideshow squalor to become the unlikely toast of 1880s London society.

Directed by Megan Dansie, with the role of Merrick played by Robert Bell (2015 Adelaide Theatre Guide Best Actor) the show will run a limited season at The Arts Theatre, opening April 14.

Dansie says the play is a moving look at a real life character that challenges perceptions of normality and difference.

“It’s a really fascinating true story that has a lot to say about how we treat people who are different. It explores in sharp detail how society perceives people with physical disabilities, and it’s also about the cruelty and injustice of objectifying people or judging them on the basis of their looks,” she says.

“Merrick is initially shunned from society, but once he is given an opportunity, he blossoms, and everyone can see that underneath his horrible deformities lies an artistic, sensitive, romantic and intelligent man.”

Although the story of Joseph Merrick is more than 130 years old, Dansie says it still has much to teach modern audiences.

“Even though the play is set in Victorian England it still resonates today, because many of us still have that fear of the ‘different’, even now in 2016. So I think in many ways it has some really important lessons for modern audiences,” she says.

The Elephant Man is a poignant and powerful look at difference, disability and the cult of celebrity.

Running in a limited season of just eight performances, The Elephant Man will play at The Arts Theatre, 53 Angas St Adelaide, from April 14 to 23, with all tickets $22 or less.

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