"Eastender's solo operation homeless guy"
by Cameron Dunham for remotegoat on 08/04/14

A hot tip from last year's Edinburgh Fringe, this one man show tells the story of a homeless man evicted from his lavishly decorated water tower after the villainous Banksy renders it a work of art by scrawling some facile twaddle across the outside. From this simple, allegedly true, premise unfolds an evening of two very different, but perfectly matched, halves.

The first consists of the play, a fictionalised account of the real story and a fictionalised presentation of Tachowa Covington, Banksy's hapless, homeless 'victim'. Gary Beadle's performance is nothing short of sensational - you will be hard pressed to see a better stage performance this year. The audience was captivated from the moment he wandered on and was with him completely as he ran a full range of emotions in this fifty minute masterclass. It is a credit to Beadle's talent that he managed tears, laughter and rage whilst carrying a fascinating narrative without once straining belief.

Writer Tom Wainwright and director Emma Callander also warrant high praise: Beadle is clearly revelling in the chance to tell such a quirky, fascinating tale whilst the minimalistic set still allows for some hugely evocative musical transitions and absorbing, if subtle, use of back screen. The play also manages the difficult trick of being self referential without tripping over its own, post modern, shoe laces: no mean feat. This served to whet the appetite for part two.

I think many of us in the audience were surprised that the second half of the evening's entertainment would not see the return of Beadle but was a showing of the film 'Something from Nothing'. Hal Samples' documentary lifted the lid on the fact behind the fiction of Covington's eviction and revealed that Banksy wasn't quite the villain of the piece after all. The real life Covington proved to be a markedly different character to the one portrayed by Beadle but no less interesting. Scenes where he was shown video footage of the play were notable if only for his disinterest but Covington seemed to enjoy his experience at last year's Fringe Festival. Footage of him watching the play in performance, a play that we had just watched in performance, a play where a fictionalised version of himself is the main subject, made for an enjoyably disorientating, inter-textual experience. This was further enhanced by his on screen meeting with Beadle, post performance.

It is, of course, heartbreaking to see that after his recent experience as a guest of honour at Edinburgh, Covington remains, essentially, a homeless man: a final sequence from February of this year showed him living in a tent on the Hollywood hills and whilst he clearly doesn't want, or need, the audience's sympathy, his story does raise interesting questions about the nature of art, celebrity and territory.

This evening presents an artistic experience that is completely satisfying. The ambitious pairings of theatre and film, fiction and fact, blend seamlessly and prove hugely entertaining and moving. One final tip: the mixture of theatre and film wrong footed this audience and we missed the opportunity to give Gary Beadle the standing ovation that he undoubtedly deserved. Don't make the same mistake!

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