The conflicting views between science and religion have always been a common topic of debate. This was no different in the Victorian Age. However, when you throw Academy award winner Bradley Cooper in the mix, you may be wondering how these three things are related. Well, they are all aspects and elements in a play based on a true story called The Elephant Man. Bradley Cooper stars as John Merrick, a physically disfigured man, and the play focuses on struggles throughout a period of his life. The play is set in the 1880’s of the Victorian era where many people would not accept you if you were different. For instance, John Merrick was not seen as an actual person because of his disfigurements. In fact, Merrick was imprisoned as part of a freak show for most of his life. On the other hand, the world of science was expanding in this era, and those people were interested in Merrick. They wanted to know why he developed these deformities and wanted to cure him.
Throughout the play people begin to get to know John Merrick and accept him. They were surprised at how insightful Merrick was and that he was actually sophisticated. They realized he was a person. With these qualities, he was able to charm an actress named Mrs. Kendal. They developed a real friendship and Mrs. Kendal found herself surprised at how close they became. He trusted her and she trusted him.
One of my favorite parts of the play is when John Merrick tells Mrs. Kendal he needs a mistress and implies he would like it to be her. I won’t spoil anything for anyone, but the moment is so honest and awkward that it was funny. Keep in mind that John Merrick is played by Bradley Cooper and the idea of Cooper not being able to get even one mistress made me chuckle. Nevertheless, Mrs. Kendal told him she didn’t think this would ever happen for him. Yet, she still put herself in vulnerable position to make a better connection with him and to make him feel more like a person.
So, would I recommend the show? Absolutely! Especially, if you have any interest in the Victorian era. The play gives a peak into what the lifestyle was like and what it was like to be on the outside of Victorian society. The society was kind of like a glorified high school, with high society, royalty and commoners.
The acting is fabulous. Everyone stayed in character and became their parts. Not to mention, the added bonus of the play opening with a shirtless Bradley Cooper (I may or may not have a celebrity crush on him). I was surprised to see Cooper in a role so different from what he plays in the movies, but he pulls it off. Cooper was not allowed to use make-up or prosthetics, so he had to create the deformities himself. He curled his fingers, cocked his body and kept the same facial expression for most of the show. I was impressed by his ability to hold all the poses and expressions for most of the play.
I was very much impressed by everything in this play. And this is coming from a person who is not very interested in theater. Bradley Cooper may have spiked my interest in the play, but the overall plot held it.