Banksy, The Room in the Elephant


When in Los Angeles for the Oscars in 2011 Banksy spotted what he thought was a disused water tank which, to his artist’s eye, resembled an elephant. However it transpired that although it was indeed a water tank it had also, for the previous seven years, played home for seven years to Tachowa Covington. Within weeks of Banksy spray painting ‘This Looks a Bit like an Elephant’ on the side of the tank in his inimitable style Covington, through no fault of his own, became embroiled, in a saga which saw legal teams trying to evict him in the name of reclaiming a now valuable piece of art. Banksy for all his seeming compassion and anonymity had unwittingly made someone from the less fortunate side of the tracks homeless.

 Part fact ,part fiction this one man show features a confident performance from former Eastender Gary Beadle and sheds light on how art becomes property and possessions suddenly materialise into being valuable when previously they were considered nothing more than junk.

 A particularly illuminating scene is one in which Beadle acts out the role of Banksy negotiating his painting of the tank with Covington who latches onto the idea that the stranger in front of him is a modern day Duchamp and can make art out of anything. To his chagrin and extreme inconvenience he later finds this to be more than true but likewise can’t work out how a disused water-tank that no-one had any interest in suddenly has several interested parties claiming it as their own property. He later goes on to draw on the analogy of the Red Indians having white men come along and claiming stretches of land and rivers where previously they had not encountered any such thoughts or divisions.

Of course this story being set in America which is essentially the land of opportunities and opportunists it wasn’t too long before the media and Hollywood came knocking at Covington’s door. Originally they were only interested in tales or information about the elusive Banksy but as it rapidly became clear to them that Covington had entered into some verbal secrets pact with the artist that he felt duty bound to uphold their greedy eyes fixated upon Covington and how they could sell his story at a profit. They hadn’t quite reckoned on Covington himself seeking some form of compensation and seeing a way forward for himself and that is what lies at the crux of this play.

 An assured performance, a tight Tom Wainwright script, great soundtrack –Massive Attack, Portishead and Roni Size all feature- and sympathetic directing by Emma Callander all conspire to make this show a worthwhile one.


 Banksy, the Room in the Elephant is showing until August 26th at Pleasance Courtyard at 1pm.

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