The Elephant Man | Rehearsal Diary Week 4

21 Jun 2018

Ahead of The Elephant Man opening next week, Assistant Director Katharine Farmer gives us an update on how the cast are preparing for their first preview on 26 Jun. 

It’s our last week rehearsing at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and things are hotting up!

A stumble run through on Tuesday made it clear that we’ve made vast steps forward in the past three weeks. Despite things going awry, Lee (Director) was pleased with the stagger through as it helped to highlight what still needs to be done.

The cast seemed jovial after the run through as it was the first time everyone got a sense of how the play flows as a whole. I found it particularly helpful to understand the breadth of Treves’ journey in the play. Having rehearsed the scenes in isolation, the stagger through brought home to me what a massive journey Treves takes as both a scientist and a man over the course of the play.

It was also great to follow Merrick’s dramatic arc and see how each scene informs his behaviour. After the run I had a quick chat with Jamie to see what he makes of playing this iconic role:

"Joseph Merrick is a well-renowned figure, but he’s also disabled like myself. It’s very different to play him as an actor without bringing what I have into it. I’m a lot more knowing, he’s more displaced. He’s also a lovely bloke, and I’m not (laughs)" 

There's been many advances in the treatment of disability over the years, but the current government and media often make disabled people seem like outcasts, so there's lots of echoes in the play of what's going on today. My life as a disabled bloke is nothing like Joseph Merrick’s, luckily. I have a lovely life compared to him. I’m delighted to be playing the role, it’s taken a while to get into the character but I think I’m getting there!"

Everyone this weeks appears to be making great progress with understanding their characters. This is most likely due to Lee’s detailed scene work. 

When chatting about working with Lee,Jamie remarked that it’s the best experience he’s ever had working with a director because of his caring and delicate approach. It’s clear that the cast feel similarly, and it’s wonderful to be a part of such a supportive rehearsal environment.

In fact, you’d never guess that the majority of the team working on The Elephant Man are students! Everyone’s professionalism and dedication is astounding. Jamie shared with me: "I feel privileged to be working with all these young graduates who are talented and on-the-ball. They’re making me up the game!"

But it’s not just the actors who’ve been working hard. The technical and stage management teams have been busy behind the scenes making sure that all the set, costume and props are ready. More and more props and costumes seem to appear each day in the rehearsal room as we edge closer and closer to the performance!

By the end of Week 4, we’re in a really good place to move down to the theatre and see the set. As we’ve been rehearsing in a studio smaller than the theatre itself, it will be great to get onto the stage and see how everything works in a larger space. Then of course it’s time to add the sound and lighting into the mix… 

Let the mayhem begin!

The Elephant Man comes to Bristol Old Vic from 26 Jun – 7 Jul. Book your tickets here