With tickets for Banky’s pop up cinema at the Lambeth Palace Theatre entering into silly money on Ebay, @AnnaJCowen and I considered doing the dirty ahead of the screening of Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Two hours later, having sat through a film comprising part documentary, part farce, part comedy, all shown within the surrounds of a Victorian tunnel with water dripping on your head, and I’m pleased that we didn’t sell out.
Which in a round about way neither has Banksy. The limited screening, twice a day down in the Old Vic Tunnels, is a long way from the red carpet treatment of Leicester Square. The constant rumble of overground trains up above gives Exit Through the Gift shop an added ambience.
It’s perhaps best to talk about the setting first and then the film second. Leake Street and Banksy have history. The Cans Festival may be officially finished, but the spirit of the spray cans lives on.
An uninviting South London cabbie rat run is now a genuinely vibrant public piece of art. Staging the debut film from the most famous street artist within the tunnels running along Leake Street makes perfect sense.
Once past the bouncers and you enter into a cavern then has little resemblance to the entrance at your local Odeon. Banksy work adorns the walls. Familiar themes of anti-Establishment are in place, as well as some rather disturbing dancing sausages.
The toilets are a work of art, with an IRA authentic dirty protest lining the walls of the gents. Art or arse? I hope it was the former; it certainly didn’t smell like the latter.
And then come curtain call, and we were ushered into the 150-seat pop up cinema. Settees serve as the luxury seating at the front, with more traditional cinema seats steeping up towards the back.
Everyone in the auditorium is taking photographs. Oh the irony of a CCTV camera in the tunnels, watching over the Banksy lovers and his own use of CCTV in his stencil imagery.
And that really is all that you need to know about the evening. It was a genuine experience and excitement entering into the vaults. The film itself was a mere secondary thought.
Exit Through the Gift Shop is essentially a film about a struggling documentary maker who wants to make a film about the street artist enfant terrible. In the end, we are given a film about the street artist enfant terrible making a film about the struggling documentary maker who becomes a highly successful (and rather crap) street artist.
This doesn’t distract from the unfolding story. Banksy is as a natural storyteller as he is an artist. The failures of Mr Brainwash are told with great comic timing, yet still with some affection.
But ultimately, the real star of the evening is the Lambeth Palace pup up Theatre itself. The screening of the film in the old Victorian tunnels highlights the potential for this space (and others) to offer a new perspective on an otherwise staid activity. There are direct parallels with what the wonderful @spacemkrs are doing in Brixton right now.
I wouldn’t go rushing to buy the Bansky Blu Ray for your own home entertainment system in the luxury of a front room. But then given the limited run of Exit Through the Gift Shop, it may be your best bet to catch the Banksy action.