Review: The Elephant Song, Park Theatre - twists, turns and the unexpected
Michael Aleen (Gwithian Evans) is a resident at a secure mental hospital obsessed with elephants. He also seems to hold the key to understanding the disappearance of one of the psychiatrists, but can the hospital director Dr Greenberg (Jon Osbaldeston), believe what he says?
Nicolas Billon's The Elephant song takes us through a game of cat and mouse as Dr Greenberg tries to talk Michael into revealing the information he has.
Michael, with his toy elephant always in his hand, knows the information he has might give him some leverage. He wants to leave the hospital.
Nurse Peterson (Louise Faulkner) warns Greenberg that Michael is manipulative. And Michael is, using his keen, sometimes cruel, observation and sharp intelligence to his best advantage.
He plays with Greenberg, telling half-truths and sowing seeds of doubt as if he is having the most fun he's had in a long time, fuelled by a sense of agency that has long been absent from his life.
But there are also hints at a broken, vulnerable person underneath as the truth behind his elephant obsession and childhood are revealed.
The back and forth between Michael and Greenberg is gripping, the discourse twists and turns, avoiding cliche and often surprising.
As a character (not the performance), Nurse Peterson is the only disappointing note. Her presence in the consulting room sometimes seemed contrived to give a meatier role and some gender balance, which is a shame.
Otherwise, The Elephant Song is well written and performed, sharp and unexpected it lingers in your mind. I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
The Elephant Song, Park Theatre
Written by Nicolas Billon
Directed by Jason Moore
Running time 70 minutes without an interval
The Elephant Song is booking until 11 February; for more information and to buy tickets, visit Park Theatre's website.
No One, Omnibus Theatre booking until 28 January ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Hamlet, Southwark Playhouse ⭐️⭐️⭐️ booking until 4 February
The Art of Illusion, Hampstead Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️ booking until 27 January
A Streetcar Named Desire, Almeida Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and a half, booking until 4 February
Orlando, Garrick Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ booking until 25 February