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The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man

Malthouse Theatre presents The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man, with audio described and Auslan interpreted performances and tactile tours. 

Joseph Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man, is cast out. He survived circus ‘freak shows’ and the revulsion of a gawking public for years until a young doctor offered him asylum at the London Hospital in 1879. So began a life of endless observation. But curiosity works both ways, and Merrick returned the horrified gaze of Victorian punters and nurses with wonder and optimism.

This story has inspired multiple theatrical adaptations, novels and a film by David Lynch. Now the team behind Malthouse Theatre’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, director Matthew Lutton and playwright Tom Wright, reunite to create a poignant new work that uncovers empathy in a world that rejects difference.

The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man will span across Joseph Merrick’s life, from birth to death, weaving through the bustling streets of London, the incurables ward of the city’s Hospital and the theatrics of the English public arena. The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man is a remarkable tale of a city negotiating the discovery of a “new man”.

Accessible performances


  • Tactile tour and audio described performance: Friday 18 August from 6.30pm
  • Auslan interpreted performance:  Thursday 24 August, 7.30pm
  • Auslan interpreted education performance:Thursday 24 August, 12.30pm

Event type: Exhibition. Title: The Winter Night Screen Project 2017. Date: Aug 1–31 2017. Ticket cost: Free

Event type: Information session. Title: Melbourne Fringe FAQ Sessions: Tour Ready. Date: Aug 29 2017. Ticket cost: Free Accessibility features: Accessible venue, Auslan interpreted,

Event type: Performance. Title: The Black Rider: audio described + Auslan interpreted. Date: Sep 15–Oct 8 2017. Ticket cost: $30-$75 Accessibility features: Accessible venue, Accessible for blind/low vision, Audio described, Companion card, Auslan interpreted,

The Black Rider