Stratford Station hosts modern-day musical hall

INDIAN dancer Bhanu Kanthagnay (pictured) is among an extraordinary line up of performers that include a beatbox champ and an operatic soprano who are entertaining visitors at Stratford Underground station, courtesy of a new film and installation by artist Matt Stokes.

The film will be on show for nine months and is part of a series of artworks at the station in the lead up to London 2012 Olympic Games.

His ‘The Stratford Gaff: A Serio-Comic-Operatick-Bombastick Interlude’ is the latest contemporary artwork commissioned by Art on the Underground on the London Underground and belongs to a collection of art projects for the Jubilee line.

The project draws heavily on the East End’s rich narrative of popular entertainment while ‘The Stratford Gaff’ is a contemporary take on the Victorian ‘Penny Gaffs’, where, for only a penny, audiences could be entertained by short sketches such as comic songs, dances and magic, all supported by the ‘house band’.

Flat-screens located in the station’s mezzanine area will replace the showman’s booth from which the Victorian Gaff would have been played.

Murray Melvin, celebrated actor and archivist at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, is one of the performers in Stokes’ piece. Other acts include: the Pearly King of Newham, owl impersonator Charlie Seber, cheerleading squad, Ascension Eagles, Bollywood star Mangal Singh; magician and female impersonator, Victoria Elizabeth Day and the ‘house band’, . Each performer’s act lasts a few minutes and offers regular visitors to the station a chance to catch a different performance each time.

Stokes, said: “Exploring Stratford and the wider borough of Newham through its heritage and communities has been an exciting journey.”