New production of The Elephant Man starring Jamie Beddard reclaims the play for our time

1 Jun 2018

Disabled actor Jamie Beddard is to play Joseph Merrick in a bold, new production of Bernard Pomerance’s moving play, highlighting views of disability and difference, in past times and in the present day. 

Joseph Merrick is ‘The Elephant Man’ – the wretched spectacle of a traveling freak show who is mercilessly put on display to the horrified delight of Victorian audiences. A London surgeon also takes a keen interest, but is faced with a moral dilemma – to help Merrick or to use him to advance his scientific career?

This year, as the theatre industry begins to reflect the diversity of the world we live in, the Bristol Old Vic/Bristol Old Vic Theatre School annual production has become a three-way collaboration with Bristol Old Vic’s new Associate Company, Diverse City. Together they are creating a new, professionally integrated production with actor and Diverse City’s co-artistic director Jamie Beddard and the Theatre School’s graduating class of 2018.

Speaking today, Jamie said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to be working with drama school graduates and hopefully, by working with someone like me, it will normalise inclusion and exciting approaches to casting. Merrick is also a really iconic part for a disabled performer. In the past, the role of Joseph Merrick has been performed by non-disabled actors, which is really bizarre. It’s time to reclaim The Elephant Man.”

Jamie Beddard was most recently seen on Bristol Old Vic’s stage (and consequently across 300 cinemas worldwide) playing The Beloved in Handel’sMessiah. Jamie’s acting career began with the BBC film Skallagrigg and since then he has taken the arts world by storm. He has previously performed in the National Theatre’s The Threepenny Opera, directed by Rufus Norris, and he has also appeared in the West End production Carrie’s War and the BBC series All The King’s Men.
 
Director Lee Lyford says: “This is a play I have wanted to do for some time. In many ways the world has become less tolerant and accepting, and The Elephant Man is about how we dehumanise people that are not like ‘us’ (whatever that means). It also felt essential in this day and age that this disabled character should be played by a disabled actor - it's about seeing opportunities for representation and taking them.We’re not equating Jamie with Merrick but we are exploring what is at the heart of the play and the character, and Jamie has both the skills and life experience to do this. We're extremely lucky to have him leading the company.” 

Bristol Old Vic, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and Diverse City collaboration The Elephant Man has confirmed that it will increase audience access during the two-week run. The show will include integrated captioning at every performance, audio description and touch tours, integrated BSL interpretation, and, in a first for Bristol Old Vic, relaxed performances for all (14+ yrs), not just for families. Bristol Old Vic is also trialling more user-friendly wheelchair positions in the Georgian auditorium with a view to including them permanently in the future.

Jamie Beddard as Joseph Merrick is joined by a cast of theatre school graduatesStephanie Booth (Countess), Micky Dartford (Ross), Max Dinnen (Bishop Walsham How), Gerald Gyimah (Carr Gomm), Grainne O’ Mahony (Mrs Kendal),Madeleine Schofield (Duchess), Charlie Suff (Snork), Liyah Summers (Princess Alexandra) and Alex Wilson (Frederick Treves).

Director Lee Lyford is joined by a creative team comprising professionals and graduating students including set designer Caitlin Abbott, costume designer Stavri Papa, lighting designer and AV consultant Ziggy Jacobs-Wyburn, AV/captioning designer Emily Leonard and composer/sound designer/musical director Adrienne Quartly.

The Elephant Man is part of Bristol Old Vic’s Year of Change, examining change through a series of ground-breaking theatre productions and provocative city-wide events.

Listings:

26 Jun – 7 Jul
The Elephant Man
Venue: Bristol Old Vic
Tickets: £31.50 – £7.50
Ages 14+
Please note: this show contains mature themes and some nudity
@BristolOldVic @BOVTS @diversecity1 #ElephantMan 

Press night Thu 28 Jun
Signed Performance Sat 7 Jul
Audio Described Performance Sat 7 Jul
Relaxed Performances Sat 30 Jun & Wed 4 Jul
Captioned Performances throughout

For press images please contact press@bristololdvic.org.uk 

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is one of the most successful and well-respected conservatoire drama schools in the UK.  We attract the very best talent in students and staff, and our courses are recognised nationally and internationally as a benchmark of quality in professional acting, technical, production and management training.  Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is an exciting creative community in the DNA of UK culture. World Class Training - Made in Bristol.
oldvic.ac.uk

Diverse City is an award winning organisation committed to diversity and equality in the arts. Diversity is central to our name, our art, and our values. Our mission is to make extraordinary shows that represent the world as it actually is. We want to break barriers and transform performance to change the lives of performers, audiences and communities. We do this by creating exceptional shows with a diversity of artists, revealing hidden stories, silenced voices and excluded talents. We make unlikely alliances that increase representation in the arts on and off stage and in the audience. We champion inclusive practice through training & coaching.
diversecity.org.uk

Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. Under Artistic Director Tom Morris and Chief Executive Emma Stenning, the historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment.

They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.

On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.

Press Office: 0117 949 4901 | press@bristololdvic.org.uk