The Elephant Manby Bernard Pomerance
“A giant of a play!” –New York Post
The Elephant Man is based on the life of John Merrick, who lived in London during the latter part of the nineteenth century. A horribly deformed young man, who has been a freak attraction in traveling side shows, is found abandoned and helpless and is admitted for observation to Whitechapel, a prestigious London hospital. Under the care of a famous young doctor, who educates him and introduces him to London society, Merrick changes from a sensational object of pity to the urbane and witty favorite of the aristocracy and literati. But his belief that he can become a man like any other is a dream never to be realized.
“A giant of a play!” –New York Post
“An enthralling and luminous play. Haunting, splendid . . .” –The New York Times
“The Elephant Man is a moving drama. Lofted on poetic wings, it nests on the human heart.” –Time Magazine
“Ravishing theatre. Bernard Pomerance’s writing is beautifully realized in all respects.” –New York Daily News
“The Elephant Man is great. A giant play. Wonderful, moving and purely theatrical.” –New York Post
HE WILL HAVE 100 GUINEA
FEES BEFORE HE’s FORTY
The London Hospital, Whitechapel Rd. Enter GOMM, enter TREVES.
TREVES: Mr. Carr Gomm? Frederick Treves. Your new lecturer in anatomy.
GOMM: Age thirty-one. Books on Scrofula and Applied Surgical Anatomy–Fm happy to see you rising, Mr. Treves. I like to see merit credited, and your industry, accomplishment, and skill all do you credit. Ignore the squalor of Whitechapel, the general dinginess, neglect and poverty without, and you will find a continual medical richesse in the London Hospital. We study and treat the widest range of diseases and disorders, and are certainly the greatest institution of our kind in the world. The Empire provides unparalleled opportunities for our studies, as places cruel to life are the most revealing scientifically. Add to our reputation by going further, and that’ll satisfy. YouVe bought a house?
TREVES: On Wimpole Street.
GOMM: Good. Keep at it, Treves. You’ll have an FRS and 100 guinea fees before you’re forty.
You’ll find it is an excellent consolation prize.
TREVES: Consolation? I don’t know what you mean.
GOMM: I know you don’t. You will. (Exits.)
TREVES: A happy childhood in Dorset.
A scientist in an age of science.
In an English age, an Englishman. A teacher and a doctor at the London. Two books published by my thirty-first year. A house. A wife who loves me, and my god, 100 guinea fees before I’m forty.
Consolation for what?
As of the year AD 1884, I Freddie Treves, have excessive blessings. Or so it seems to me.
ART IS AS NOTHING TO
Whitechapel Rd. A storefront A large advertisement of a creature with an elephant’s head. ROSS, his manager.
ROSS: Tuppence only, step in and see: This side of the grave, John Merrick has no hope nor expectation of relief. In every sense his situation is desperate. His physical agony is exceeded only by his mental anguish, a despised creature without consolation. Tuppence only, step in and see! To live with his physical hideousness, incapacitating deformities and unremitting pain is trial enough, but to be exposed to the cruelly lacerating expressions of horror and disgust by all who behold him–is even more difficult to bear. Tuppence only, step in and see! For in order to survive, Merrick forces himself to suffer these humiliations, I repeat, humiliations, in order to survive, thus he exposes himself to crowds who pay to gape and yawp at this freak of nature, the Elephant Man.
Enter TREVES who looks at advertisement.
ROSS: See Mother Nature uncorseted and in malignant rage! Tuppence.
TREVES: This sign’s absurd. Half-elephant, half-man is not possible. Is he foreign?
ROSS: Right, from Leicester. But nothing to fear.
TREVES: I’m at the London across the road. I would be curious to see him if there is some genuine disorder. If he is a mass of papier-mach” and paint however–
ROSS: Then pay me nothing. Enter, sir. Merrick, stand up. Ya bloody donkey, up, up.
They go in, then emerge. TREVES pays.
TREVES: I must examine him further at the hospital. Here is my card. I’m Treves. I will have a cab pick him up and return him. My card will gain him admittance.
ROSS: Five bob he’s yours for the day.
TREVES: I wish to examine him in the interests of science, you see.
ROSS: Sir, I’m Ross. I look out for him, get him his living. Found him in Leicester workhouse. His own ma put him there age of three. Couldn’t bear the sight, well you can see why. We–he and I–are in business. He is our capital, see. Go to a bank. Go anywhere. Want to borrow capital, you pay interest. Scientists even. He’s good value though. You won’t find another like him.
TREVES: Fair enough. (He pays.)
ROSS: Right. Out here, Merrick. Ya bloody donkey, out!
Lights fade out