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My Fair… Elephant?



Review by Emma Whitelaw

INSPIRED by David Lynch’s cult classic, The Elephant Man, comes comedy trio Population: 3’s The Elephant Woman, an extraordinary tale featuring prostitutes, surgeons, baboons, a hansom cab and a woman with a bag on her head.

After losing his wife during childbirth, Dr Professor Treves, played by the delectable James Bachman, stumbles across a travelling freak show.

He and his new born son, played by a Terrance and Phillip-like puppet, are fascinated by the main act, a woman so disfigured that she could only be deemed half-human.

She is, the Elephant Woman, aka Miss Anella Phant.

The high-camp acting that ensues is hilariously entertaining. Barunka O’Shaughnessy is delightful as the devilishly wicked Russian freak show owner, as is Lucy Montgomery as the child born from an unholy union between an elephant and a very sexy lady.

Using the word 'shit' in as many ways imaginable, Miss Phant’s owner tells Dr Professor Treves that he may take the Elephant Woman away for 'scientific purposes', as long as he promises to bring her back.

Failing that, the fur-clad Russian threatens that she will take something precious of his, his one and only son.

Lucy Montgomery hams it up as Miss Anella Phant. Completely unaided by facial expression, as she wears a mask throughout most of the show, she is remarkably talented in her use of body language and the deliverance of her lines.

I particularly liked her operatic talents in one scene where she sings to the audiences' delight.

Her swift introduction to polite society is very much like that of My Fair Lady’s Eliza Dolittle.

And just as Miss Dolittle charms her teacher, so, too, does Miss Phant.

Dr Professor Treves' curiosity soon turns to love as his scientific experiment results in a proposal of marriage.

The show then takes a more romantic turn, as the couple go on their first date, a night with Oscar Wilde.

Bachman's riotous portrayal of camp Irish writer was an absolute side splitter.

With many a reference to 'bumming', the crowd were in fits of laughter at his anecdotes - and it's worth seeing the show purely for that alone!

All three comics are great fun, their good natured tomfoolery is simply a must see.

Having received critical acclaim for their recent performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I can say their run at the New Ambassadors should enjoy just as much success.

It is guaranteed good clean fun with laughs a plenty!

The Elephant Woman, written and performed by Barunka O’Shaughnessy, Lucy Montgomery and James Bachman. Directed by David Sant. September 10, 14, 16 at 7:30pm, and 21st at 9:30pm at New Ambassadors Theatre, West Street London WC2. Box Office 0870 060 6627.

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