Malcolm Barker-Kamps on his Elephant Man

One of the first theater productions to open at Sarah Lawrence in 2011, the upcoming Body Electric-organized staging of Bernard Pomerance’s Elephant Man will open at the Downstage Theater on Friday, March 4th (and will also play the following evenings, March 5th and 6th). Zach Tomlinson is directing the production, with first-year Malcolm Barker-Kamps playing Joseph Merrick, the physically deformed lead. I recently spoke to Barker-Kamps about the upcoming production, his role as Merrick, and David Bowie’s pantless rendition circa 1980. Elephant Man, based on the life of Joseph Merrick (August 5 1862- April 11 1890), tells the story of a young man rejected by many, exploited by some, cared for by few, and loved by one.

One of the big questions surrounding this show is how to demonstrate the  physical deformities of Merrick: to what extent is the visual necessary to create  the desired sense of character? Productions of this work have taken different  approaches, but Barker-Kamps said that in this production, his makeup will be  minimal. “[It is] partly symbolic, but there is also a practical element,” he said of  the decision. To recreate Merrick’s deformities would be an enormous use of time  and resources. The choice to leave Barker-Kamps plaster-free certainly will add a  humanizing element to his character. When asked about the experience of  playing this role, Barker-Kamps said, “it’s more physically taxing [than other  roles] in that I always have to be contorted.” As an actor, he not only has to be  tuned in to the emotional nuances of his character but also hyper-aware of how  he carries his body and consciously limits his range of motion.

Of the production, why we should see it, and how he identifies with the  character, Barker-Kamps said, “[This story] touches everyone. Everyone has had  their Elephant Man moments, as well as those friends and family that have  shown them their inner beauty.”

Image from:

Nina Sparling (Editor, “What’s Up”) is a bi-coastal aspiring bread baker frustrated with the current food system. Originally from Berkeley, she moved to New York, complaining most of the way, until she found the Met and figured out the subway (but still has serious envy for Bay Area vegetables). Currently a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence, Nina studies languages, political ecology, and geography and tries to figure out how they all relate.

Be first to comment