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The Elephant Man: A Play Paperback – September 1, 1979


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 71 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition edition (September 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802130410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802130419
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Merrick was born physically deformed that would scare anyone but had the most pure heart.
"unknown313"
Juxtaposed with the film, Pomerance's play makes us aware of the power of the theater of the imagination.
Samuel Chell
Surprised how well this deeply moving play holds up after so many years the ending is pure heartbreak.
Reader/author

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Chell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
I can think of few films that have touched me as deeply as Lynch's "The Elephant Man." Hence, I was prepared for an anticlimactic theater piece when I picked up the script and subsequently attended the play. To my surprise, it's every bit as powerful as the film--in no way a replacement for Lynch's supreme achievement but a necessary complement to it.

Pomerance' play concentrates on Dr. Frederick Treves, whose experience places him in the company of Conrad's Marlowe. By the end of the play his promotion to knighthood is one more empty Victorian consolation added to a career that has become meaningless. In his powerful, climactic "corset" speech he rises to social indictment of the highest order--a recognition of the "horror" and a denunciation of the shallow, exploitive, self-deluded, spiritless society that he would prefer to be no part of (his epiphany is also suggestive of Charles Smithson's in "The French Lieutenant's Woman").

Juxtaposed with the film, Pomerance's play makes us aware of the power of the theater of the imagination. Unlike the movie, whose requirements for verisimilitude led John Hurt to putting on facial make-up for six hours prior to each day's shoot, the play's John Merrick appears without disguise. His normal features are soon replaced, however, by the audience's realization that Merrick could be--and is--any one of us.

Both a little less realistic and less sentimental than the film, the play is at the same time a provocative and moving study in self-discovery.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance M. Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although it was assumed that Bernard Pomerance's play "The Elephant Man" was the basis for the David Lynch film, that it not the case. Of course, both the play and the film are based on the real life of John Merrick, so it is not surprising that the relationship between Merrick and his physician, Sir Frederick Treves, is not surprising. The chief conceit of this play is introduced in Scene III, when the actor playing Merrick contorts himself to approximate projected slides of the real Merrick while Treves lectures on the Elephant Man's condition. As Pomerance points out in his introductory note, Merrick's face was sufficiently deformed that his speech was very difficult to understand. Consequently, "Any attempt to reproduce his appearance and his speech naturalistically--IF it were possible--would seem to me not only counterproductive, but, the more remarkably successful, the more distracting from the play." Pomerance captures the plight of Merrick, rescued from being a freak attraction in traveling sideshows, he is educated and introduced to London society. But although Merrick is changed from an object of pity to a favorite of high society, he is denied the chance to lead a normal life. Pomerance uses the model Merrick made of the St. Philip's Church as a central metaphor for the Elephant Man's life at London Hospital. The play is episodic in nature, and we actually learn much more about the people in Merrick's life than we do about the man himself. Pomerance's movie and theatrical play won all the major drama awards including the Tony, Obie, Drama Desk Award and New York Drama Critics Circle Award. If you are interested in either the Lynch film or the life of John Merrick, then this play is a worthy of your consideration as Treves's work "The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences," which is reprinted in "The Elephant Man, A Study in Human Dignity" by Ashley Montagu.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Boudreaux on December 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
The true story of John Merrick, an outcast reinvited into society, is tragic, moving, and thought-provoking. Merrick's relationships with a sympathitic doctor and a bold actress bring to life the deformed man's deepest thoughts and ambitions, leaving the reader caught in the world of a romantic artist. The irony of Merrick's desire to be like everyone else is displayed clearly by supporting characters' hypocracy and cynicism. I highly recommend The Elephant Man to anyone who enjoys dramatic theatre.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "red_haired_dancing_girl" on May 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
This play by Bernard Pomerance is one of the most moving and beautiful scripts I have ever read. The dialogue is richly textured and has many layers of subtext, including implications about British colonialism. I chose to see the play as, among other things, a metaphor for the British view of the "white man's burden" and their fascination with the idea of the "civilized savage", but I think the most brilliant works of art are open to myriad interpretations. Although a play needs to be performed to fully come alive, Pomerance's script stands alone well, as a poem or novel would. Its words go to the core of the human experience.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
I obtained a copy of the play from my local library think that it would resemble the movie; it did not. This play was so riveting that I read the play 4 more times while in my possession. The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance follows the tragic life of Joseph Merrick. Pomerance wrote everything just right to complete a masterpiece. Pomerances use of diction and dialogue took the read right into Merricks hospital room in turn of the 20th century London.
While reading the play, I found myself becoming emotionally attached to Merrick as he transformed from a horrid animal to a person of intelligence and wisdom. Each time I read the play I picked up the little things Pomerance wrote about how cruel humanity can be to things they don't understand.
I found myself finishing the play and then turning back to page one. The play was enthralling. Expanding my mind to the world before me while ironically keeping me away from it. The Elephant Man should be dispersed to high schools nation wide, so teenagers have the chance to read and annotate a great piece of literature. This play is great to read for your own pleasure. It will expand your mind, and rethink your position in society.
A strong worded masterpiece like a cannonball ripping through the literary cannon. I recommend this play to anyone of any age looking to expand their mind and thoughts of the society around them.
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