The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man

2018 - Shortlisted


Judges' comments

Tom Wright’s refraction of the story of Joseph Merrick (the ‘Elephant Man’) explores the terrain of human dignity and suffering with enormous tenderness. The play follows a young boy who grows up with increasing ‘deformities’ leading him to a life in a freak show, on the streets and ultimately in institutions.

The storytelling in this play is exquisite. Wright’s command of language is powerful and used to excellent advantage in the setting of the scene and wider exploration of the play. While based on a well-known story, this adaptation builds upon and transcends the original. With a tone that is both modern and reminiscent of the Victorian era, The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man has a timelessness that allows it to speak to its exploration of the validity of ‘difference’ and the binaries that allow the ‘normal’ to maintain the status quo. Told with great humanity, this play is a beautiful and frank meditation on difference.