The Varsity sat down with Caitlin Driscoll, Daniel Pagett, Imogen Wilson, Elan Farbiarz, and Anurag Choudhury, who make up the cast and crew of Becoming Banksy. Becoming Banksy is a comedy that explores what happens when a confused tourist is mistaken for the world’s most famous artist.
The Varsity: There is quite a difference between the way that visual art and theatrical art portray their message. The visual component is very different; you convey time and expression a lot more fluidly, more dynamically as actors. Since Banksy is known for movement and attention-grabbing hooks, did you struggle to convey that same sort of ‘hook?’
Elan Farbiarz: Everyone has a different viewpoint on the art itself, graffiti, Banksy, what have you. It is pretty cool — it’s completely anonymous and people will just show up and gawk at it and care. The anonymity is so exciting for everyone to see. If we knew who Banksy was, I don’t know if people would care.
Imogen Wilson: Banksy is quite unique in the way that it has this anonymity where you could venture to what it could be, like Batman, these individuals that exist in the zeitgeist, but exist where you can’t see them.
Daniel Pagett: They represent the idea, not just themselves.
EF: Some of Banksy’s most prolific works are his installation pieces, which bridge the gap between the theatrical and artist. You’re expected as an observer to contribute — see, touch, manipulate. Your relationship to the space and time you’re in takes your experience. Much like here, a very powerful part of theatre is the ‘now.’ What if we were to expose Banksy?
TV: Banksy’s work is sometimes satirical, but most of the time political. Do you feel a comedy suits Banksy better than a tragedy?
Caitlin Driscoll: When does the artist become the art? It’s about him. Like, the humour that surrounds him as a person — you gotta be able to laugh. His stuff, it’s political, incendiary in some way, but at the same time, the way people get caught up in the fame — it diminishes the messages. It’s interesting to do a comedy about that.
EF: There’s something [ominous] about the rise of our collective zeitgeist and the rise of this artist, which is making very poignant comments on this relationship, between our lives, corporations, privacy.
IW: There’s a quote that Banksy has, it’s, “People only cared about what I had to say when they didn’t know who I was,” which I think is quite cool and quite telling.
DP: Social media carries his art to a larger audience. It carries a similarity with graffiti in that they are both ‘local’ [accessible] mediums. They exist in one place, at one time. I would argue that theatre is more ‘local’ now because of the internet, but with graffiti you can see a picture of it and it kind of works.
EF: But it changes all the time; like theatre, a month later it could be faded, a few weeks later it could be gone. It happens under the cover of night. One morning you could wake up and just be like, ‘Oh what’s that, another piece?’ on your way to work.
TV: Did making this ‘local’ theatrical experience have anything to do with the fact that there is a Banksy exhibition happening right now?
IW: I’m from Toronto originally and I always wanted to come back and do something here, and once I saw that Banksy was coming here, it was like, ‘Of course, Toronto.’ You never know how many people ‘know’ Banksy, though. In New York, London, LA, there’s a good base that understands it. All [of a] sudden, people are going to be like, ‘Oh what’s Banksy like?’ The exhibit was great for people who know nothing about Banksy. Our show gives you more depth to what it’s actually all about, the phenomenon. How we talk, the questions, the people who don’t like the work. It’s one of those things where we ask those questions and we give you more than what the exhibit could give you.
EF: I’m a bit of a self-proclaimed renegade. I always loved those stories of people existing outside of convention, and being bold, and making strong choices, you know, Banksy, Batman, Robin Hood, these unsung heroes. On an artistic level, I like his work. It’s clever, well-executed. The stencil work is great. I think his exhibition pieces are his best work.
DP: In terms of the comedy of the show, Banksy uses satire and political messages, and that’s always been a big thing for me as an actor. If I have a message to [the piece], or dramatic catharsis, there should be an equal amount of comedy and accessibility for audiences. A spoonful of sugar is missing from a lot of art. I think that’s one thing that’s really important. Some artists want their voice to be heard, but if it’s not accessible, or if no one wants to listen, then you’re really just shouting into the void.
CD: I’ve always been a big fan of Banksy as a ‘moment in time.’ He’s like, all the things. Banksy is the ultimate stand-up comic. He can do his whole set — no one needs to look it over. He’s there.
TV: If there was one thing you could impress upon Banksy, what would it be?
CD: That’s a big one. My main thing would be, I don’t want to know who you are. I want you to remain anonymous. I like the choices being made. I don’t want to meet you, I don’t need to meet you.
DP: Because I think of Banksy as more of an idea than a person, it’s hard to say what I’d say to him necessarily — I’ve already said a bunch of things ‘to’ him. It’s harder to say something to an idea than to a person. I’d just say thanks.
EF: I’d ask him where the treasure is buried. I mean in the same way, it’s my belief that it’s bigger than one person. If I were to meet someone from ‘Banksy Inc.,’ I’d probably want to participate. What’s the secret code? How can I join?
IW: Obviously Banksy has all this money now. I’d want to know what, or how much he profits off his works and his projects and exhibitions. How much do you control, what power do you have, and how do you earn all of this? It’s a big corporation.
Anurag Choudhury: I find it strange to ask people about their professions, so I’d probably just ask for a pint and then ask about his politics.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Becoming Banksy opened on September 28 and will run until October 14. Tickets are available at www.becomingbanksy.com.