There’s always something problematic about a fiction based on a truth; unavoidably both are compromised in the process.
‘Banksy; The room in the Elephant’ takes as its starting point the very real eviction of Tachowa Covington from the water tank near Los Angeles where he was living, as a result of graffiti artist Banksy inscribing ‘This Looks a Bit Like an Elephant’ on its exterior.
Gary Beadle tells the tale from Covington’s point of view, taking us through his discovery and domestication of his unusual home, his encounter with Banksy and its outcome in his eviction from a place that was his home but became merely another object to be acquired and marketed.
It’s a story filled with highs and lows punctuated by laconic observation from Beadle’s character, but it feels as if at times character gets in the way of the questions both he and we ought to be asking, about public art and private space, corporate responsibility and personal freedom.
We glimpse them here and there between the jokes, but too often there feels as if the spaces between are too wide and the arguments themselves a little narrow.
That said, Beadle’s performance is always solid and watchable. His Covington may not rail loudly against the pricks life keeps inflicting, but nevertheless remains firmly unillusioned about his place (or lack of one) in the society in which he has to live.
Yet it’s the character’s very clarity and lucidity that takes us (perhaps necessarily) into a fictionalisation of homelessness and rootlessness. What feels as if it’s missing is an attempt to reproduce and account for even some of the causes of homelessness and their impact on those experiencing the condition.
In many ways this is an interesting attempt to explore issues rarely discussed on a public stage. If it doesn’t quite get there, Beadle’s performance is still worth watching.
This touring production of ‘Banksy; the Room in the Elephant’ is accompanied by the film, ‘Something from Nothing’ which documents Covington’s experience, providing a useful and appropriate commentary on Wainwright’s play.