Edinburgh 2013: Banksy: The Room in the Elephant - A self-referential take on a troublesome truth


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The Independent Culture

Tachowa Covington lived in a water tank in the Hollywood hills for seven years; then British graffiti artist Banksy sprayed “this looks a bit like an elephant” on it, and he was thrown out: it’s valuable art now. This is the basic, if troublesome, truth - first reported in The Independent in 2011 - that Tom Wainwright’s play takes as its starting point.

It apparently presents Covington’s life story: a one-man show, performed by Gary Beadle with swivel-eyed, wide-grinning intensity. He directly addresses us in giddy LA-slang - all “damn”s and “a-holes”s and “ma man”s. It’s a charismatic, if occasionally OTT, performance (his chat with a plastic toy rat is somewhat annoying). 

But Banksy - as perhaps befits a show which takes its name from this tricksy, secretive artist - is more slippery than an elephant at bath-time. It tells tall tales of Covington’s life and then knocks them down, playfully following, then pointing out, then busting the conventions of Hollywood storytelling with all it’s highs and lows, twists and neat resolutions. Covington slyly smirks at the audience’s desire to hear about “the real Banksy”; he even mocks the idea of a playwright wanting to dramatise his story, hungrily gobbling up someone else’s life for their own artistic ends.

It’s thought-provoking on the urge to make art from the every-day, or irksomely tail-eating, depending on your appetite for self-referential work.

Till 26 August; box office 0131 556 6550