Setting the Scene for The Elephant Man: A Conversation with CATCO Scenic Designer, Eric Barker

When we go to the theatre, the happenings on stage are on display for our viewing pleasure, but imagine if your entire life was on display for the world's viewing pleasure...

CATCO opens its 2015-2016 season with The Elephant Man, the story of the tragic life of John Merrick whose horrible physical deformities render him a constant exhibition—both as a sideshow freak, and later as a medical experiment in a hospital.

Scenic designer Eric Barker used this theme of Merrick as spectacle as inspiration for his set design for the production.

Barker knew the set for this show needed two key elements: Victorian Era style, and the illusion that Merrick is always being observed. Images of a bell jar inspired his design.

"The illusion of the set as a bell jar tells the audience that Merrick is always on display," Barker said.

Barker has worked closely with Producing Director Steven C. Anderson to execute his vision, in addition to lighting and costume designers all helping to unify the concept of Merrick on display.

"I like working with CATCO because everyone is excited about the collaborative process," Barker said. "Contributors in all disciplines are committed to working together and creating a finished product that is based upon original visions."

For the audience, the set on stage is a visual element that exists to help the actors tell the story; but, as Barker tells us, there is always something more to that story than meets the eye... a lesson we all should remember as we join CATCO at the theatre for The Elephant Man later this month.

To see more of Eric's work, please visit