Observations: In art, life is always a cabaret

Alice Jones
Friday 03 April 2009 00:00
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For her latest exhibition, on show in the National's Lyttelton foyer, her paintings delve into historical and imagined worlds of the English music hall, the heyday of Weimar cabaret and backstage burlesquerie. Its title, Tingle-Tangle, is the German name for a particularly low-rent, and occasionally sleazy, form of variety show, featuring characters such as Inferna: the Human Torch; Mimi: Daredevil Queen of the Slack Rope; and Cecilia the Astonishing.

Halls travelled to Paris and Berlin, collecting original material and visiting old cabaret haunts. "But I was about 70 years too late for the performances I wanted to see." On her return, she set about crafting her own authentic costumes and props and roped in friends to create theatrical tableaux, which she then painted "from life". Photographs of the process accompany the finished paintings and demonstrate the extraordinary lengths Halls has gone to to recreate a lost world of the theatre. For one, she hand-made a mechanical replacement for a chorus line in which a row of identical, wooden-jointed female figures was sandwiched between and manipulated by two human dancers at either end for theatres that couldn't afford the full live complement.

To 30 May (www.roxanahalls.com)

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