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The Vanishing Elephant

  • Date: 7 September 2009
  • Artform: Theatre
  • Area: South East
The Vanishing Elephant The Vanishing Elephant, Dave Prodrick

The Vanishing Elephant is a play that involved more than 1,000 residents of the struggling commercial area of Camden Road in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Written by Jon Oram, director of Claque Theatre Company, it involved members of the community aged from five to 85, including representatives of all religious faiths, people living in social housing, people with learning disabilities, a large group from the cancer drop-in centre, and people with mental health issues. The production was made possible with a £57,000 grant from Arts Council England, South East.

Oram worked with the community to weave together and bring to life local history, and hundreds of personal stories and memories of the area gathered together over a period of months. Everyone played a role, from being in the cast, making costumes and props, to event management and running school workshops.

Local resident Liz Anderson, whose husband and two sons all took part in the production, played character Annie Iredell in the play said: ‘It’s been unforgettable these last few weeks and months.

‘Without a doubt this has been a life-changing experience,’ added actor Jon Marshall. ‘I have loved every minute of it, discovered new things about myself and my abilities. I’ve met so many new people and feel I have a new perspective on life.’

Jon Oram believes The Vanishing Elephant will have a lasting effect on the community: ‘The play has highlighted the quiet affection a lot of people feel for Camden Road and vocalised it. More importantly, it has radicalised and motivated lots of people into ensuring the area becomes revitalised. It has demonstrated the power of art as an instrument for change.’

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