Banksy: The Room in the Elephant
Volcanic performance from Eastenders’ Gary Beadle
This article is from 2013.
‘I guess y’all wanna hear about Banksy,’ says Titus Covington (Eastenders’ Gary Beadle). It’s a reasonable assumption – the artist’s name is, after all, in the show’s title, and anything he touches is guaranteed to generate fervent interest from his many adoring fans. The skillful manouvre Tom Wainwright has pulled off with his script for The Room in the Elephant is making this adoration the focal point of the story, staging Covington’s tale while simultaneously asking why it’s being watched, and why it was even written in the first place.
Covington is an LA native who lived on the fringes of Tinseltown. He had been living in a repurposed water tank for seven years when Banksy arrived on his doorstep, asking if he could decorate the tank with the words, ‘This looks a bit like an elephant’. Covington agreed, unaware that his home would become an object of desire for art collectors. In short order the tank was purchased, and moved to a storage warehouse; Covington was left homeless, living out of urban caves and wheeling his life around in a shopping trolley.
Beadle’s performance is, to use a word from one of his coruscating soliloquies, ‘volcanic’. At times told in the style of a YouTube confessional, at others in the rhythmic incantation of a street rapper-turned-ghetto prophet, his emotions burst forth in a flurry of one-two punches: bravado, then shock; despair, then rebellion; delight, then bemusement; confusion, then rage. It’s a performance so involving that we’re prevented from seeing the subtext until director Emma Callander puts it right in front of us: that we’re once again appreciating an artistic construct in place of real life; that, as Covington says, we want a story, not the truth.
Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 26 Aug, 1pm, £9–£12 (£8–£11).