Edinburgh Fringe 2022
The filming of The Elephant Man featuring such luminaries as Anthony Hopkins, John Gielgud and John Hurt is presented here as a look back at how David Lynch went from being a troublesome creative to a worldwide, troublesome creative. Being unable to make the picture he wants to make Lynch just picks a script and gets started on it. Except he struggles to get started on it, much to the Producer, Mel Brooks’ chagrin. Eventually things roll, the picture gets made and the rest, as they say, is onscreen.
I am unsure where the laughs are in this retelling, but it challenges you to engage with it – almost Lynchian itself. Lynch’s mercurial talent is exposed to us in all its cinematic glory as Mr. Twonkey gives of his best. The premise may be to retell a story, but it tends to meander rather than directly address the issues.
I found the direction troublesome especially the entrances and exits and at times there are periods when cast members seem to be on the same small stage as people they are not supposed to overhear or surprised by the turn of events that must have been rehearsed in a previous existence – in the rehearsal room.
Some of the lines and some of the characterisation appear a little skin deep but there are some bright moments. The big heads are genius though I wish we could have had more secure entrances and exits. The scene in the sidecar is great and Miranda Shrapnell as Dorothy Donuts fizzes. There are also times when each of the actors captures a moment where they transcend the script. Songs are great but some of the delivery is too flat. They have ability and glimpses at this gives hope that as the run continues, we may be looking at a slow burning hit.
There is a clear attempt here to do something very different and credit where credit is due, there are flashes when this works but overall, it needs to be tightened. It is a worthy curiosity which I did enjoy. David Lynch is good material. You just need to make equally good material to match it. His legacy is something in which there must be tremendous raw material which could add to the Elephant Man – now that type of retrospective might suit the cast a little better.