You can only see well with the heart…

On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur...

The true story of Joseph “John” Merrick had made a great noise in 1980. This year, the world had discovered it through the film The elephant man, inspired by the play of the same title, produced a few years earlier by the Englishman Bernard Pomerance.

The elephant man (Elephant Man), this is the nickname that we had rigged Merrick, a phenomenon of the show, which was running around the crowds in the London of the late 19th century. Syndrome of Proteus, the young man was terrible and painful malformation arousing in the people a mixture of curiosity and disgust. It was one day noticed by a professor of anatomy who took him under his wing to care for and offer him a life more ” normal “, away from prying eyes.

It is this original piece of Pomerance as a takeover, last year, québec director Jean LeClerc. The production was first presented at the Théâtre du Rideau Vert in the first months of 2018. Now on tour in Quebec until next march, with a distribution slightly modified.

In the role of the elephant man himself, Eric Paulhus succeeds in particular to Benedict McGinnis, whose performance was hailed by critics in montreal.

Of great shoes to put on ? “Yes, but I saw it more as an honor. I was given the role without an audition, so I wanted people to be happy. I didn’t want to disappoint them, ” says the one that has just celebrated its 40th anniversary. “It is a beautiful gift of 40 years ! “

The actor has been seen on tv in A grenade with that ? The Argonauts, Madame Lebrun and Letting go, is not his first role in the theatre. But he had never been attacked in a performance as physical, ” he said. “I come out of there covered in sweat and with a lot of tension in the body. “

On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur...

The main role has been entrusted to the actor Eric Paulhus.


Challenge actor

Because they can’t improvise the elephant man) who wants to. A challenge was waiting for Eric Paulhus. “I saw the play last year without knowing that I was going to play it. When I was offered, I felt a mixture of fear and desire. It is a composition full of levels, both physical and vocal. Fortunately, I have the chance to play with great players “, he adds, referring to his colleagues on stage : Sylvie Drapeau, Germain Houde, Natalie Gadoua, Roger Street, Annick Bergeron, Stéphane Breton, and Hubert Proulx. To appropriate the character, Eric Paulhus has, in particular, inspired by photographs of the elephant man, adjusting his posture and his gait, and then finding the voice that suited him the best.

“Through all these physical constraints, we can convey emotions,” says he.

All the more that to portray Joseph Merrick, the actor does not have any prosthetics or makeup. The public needs to imagine his deformities. “It is much more powerful to suggest. This is the force in the theater. As a spectator, you can see it all without artifice. “

One might believe that playing The elephant man is a dark and difficult. “No, on the contrary. It’s light and smooth. This charming man had a hunger to learn, to love and to be loved, ” suggests Eric Paulhus.


The French version of Jean LeClerc, he said, remains very faithful to the original English. Without the tone to be bombastic, however. “We place the time and context, then one moves to quickly away from the more intimate and sensitive story. “

The humanism that emerges from this could in part explain the success of the work. This and the next legendary of The elephant man, believes Eric Paulhus. “We know vaguely the film of 1980 and we all know about the myth. It stings the curiosity and wants to know her story. “

And presented in the current context where the cult of the image is omnipresent, this production comes at an opportune time, according to him. “In fact, it is a play about difference, so that one is now in fear of this difference, in the fear of the foreigner. There is distrust and rejection of people who are not like us. It does not cross always the barrier of the first look, I think. “

In this sense, The elephant man may, perhaps, awaken some consciences, he believes. “If you have a little bit of heart, there is a lesson to learn… “

On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur...

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