Review: Banksy, The Room in the Elephant

A true story not at all to be missed, has already attracted a diverse audience of popular interest, writes Gauri Kangai

Friday to Sunday night at The Station and Tobacco Factory saw the premiere of an unusual theatrical experience. ‘Banksy: The Room in the Elephant’ is a play capturing the story of the man unintentionally made homeless in downtown Los Angeles, by choosing his home (a discarded water tank) as one of his instantaneously famous murals, back in 2011.

Solely acted by the inflicted man, under the novel play name ‘Titus’ (Eastenders actor, Gary Beadle), he is suddenly brought to light by these events. Banksy painted the words ‘This looks a bit like an elephant’ on his supposedly elephant-shaped water tank, which led muses to obtain the water tank for gallery purposes, disregarding Titus’ entire livelihood inside.

Essentially a full ‘house’ fitted with a stove, furniture, television, even a hand-crafted hole to thread energy from a makeshift energy generator outside, Titus’ life and world as he has known it is suddenly turned upside down. A lone man now without a home, he has the world on his back.

Though a life away from Beverley Hills, the sight makes for his daily ‘window’ view, and he is not so naïve in the commercial world of ‘live entertainment’: he is aware what story the reporters really want is to gain sensational insight of the infamously anonymous graffiti artist.

Being a long-aspiring actor himself, he decides to settle with his own ‘story’ – if that is what people want – rather than the truth. The audience soon understand this is his own opportune artistry, to escape the truthful “boring” reality of what would otherwise be.

Within his story, he spiritedly analogises his own feelings, thoughts and standpoint from life in these events. Formerly with only his pet rat, ‘B’, to relate to, and the occasional middle-class youths who stumble drunk and ‘high’ in his abode, this is Titus’ time to vigorously let loose to a listening audience.

Having actually been content with his former life – the livelihood he had quite literally crafted for himself as “Something from Nothing” for the past seven years – his philosophy of ‘need before want’, conveyed in his animatedly candid way, emotionally transfixes the audience.

His bafflement at how a water tank long considered as ‘trash’ could overnight be classed as ‘art’ – leaving him with eviction, and his house newly homed in a gallery – wrenches the audience to consider the absurdity of simply not putting our step in someone else’s foot. Gradually this ‘underdog’ being portrayed becomes a ‘star’.

Following the already superb play, directed by Emma Callander (Theatre Uncut) and written by Tom Wainwright (Pedestrian), the show took an unexpected turn. Creator of an associated documentary of the story “Something from Nothing”, Hal Samples from Texas shared with the audience his meeting and undercovering of Titus, really named Tachowa Covington.

Just the kind of ending to a story that ‘Titus’ prefers – a “sickass twist” – the evening’s performance has an extraordinary finish.

A completely bemusing and insightful 10 minutes sees the audience engaged in a live Skype session with none other than ‘Titus’ (Tachowa) himself, sitting from his tent where his old water tank used to be, in downtown LA. Not to be mistaken for simply class act ‘live entertainment’, the audience were open to ask their own questions to Tachowa, which brings an honest relationship between his story and our understanding.

‘Banksy: The Room in the Elephant’, a true story not at all to be missed, has already attracted a diverse audience of popular interest. The play will now be taken to Edinburgh Fringe Festival from tomorrow to August 26.

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