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.


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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.”

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