Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Thought for the Day • GREAT ART, BAD THEATRE • The Sultan’s Elephant • 2006

The Sultan's Elephant at Horse Guards Parade, London [Wikipedia]

The Sultan’s Elephant at Horse Guards Parade, London [Wikipedia]

The French company, Royal de Luxe, got everyone talking about its street theatre event, The Sultan’s Elephant, which took place in London over the weekend, not least critics Carole Woddis and Howard Loxton. One says Great Art, Life-changing Communality, the other says Big Event, Bad Theatre.

Carole describes the production, organized by Helen Marriage and Nicky Webb of Artichoke Productions, as the “most fantastic thing” she’s ever seen. (Marriage and Webb spent five years persuading Royal de Luxe to visit and the London authorities to agree.)

“I was in tears. The size of it, the response of the crowd, the Pied Piperedness of it, the slow processing of it down the Mall and Piccadilly with its great ears flapping and the French style rock then Indian music, the response of the kids on the shoulders of their parents, the response of the parents. I just gazed in wonder.

“You could see all its articulations, its wires, you could see it wasn’t ‘real’; but like any great puppetry, the unreality, as Lyn Gardner so eloquently put it in her Guardian review, was transformed into art. And the art was in the streets, in the ambience, in the communality of it all, the wild and wonderful gallic flair and imagination.

“I remember many years ago a company called Le Grand Magic Circus coming to the Roundhouse and they had a similar kind of controlled, imaginative anarchy. I couldn’t bear to leave it – her, he. I was late for all my appointments on Monday but was so pleased to have caught it and told other friends who were equally awed!

“The French have it, just that little extra sense of wildness and style which can turn the impossible into a life-changing event.”

But can it be described as street theatre? Howard, who has already written about his experience of The Sultan’s Elephant, says:

“What I saw of this four-day event – and most members of the public probably only saw a short episode – still did not make me rank this work highly as a piece of street theatre. But I, and thousands more, enjoyed it. Lots of people have told me how impressed they were. It must count as a success. But with the enormous effort and resources involved – not to mention cost – there should have been more to it.

“It proved that such events are manageable in London. There were hints that this might be the kind of thing to attempt for the Olympics. I hope we’ve learned something about the proxemics of working with crowds and that we will show more theatrical imagination and offer a more involving structure, instead of fencing off the public at a great distance.”

© Sarah Vernon 2006

Originally published on R&V 10-05-06


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on 02/08/2016 by in Articles, Thought for the Day and tagged , , .
Mandy Bangerter

Textile Artist and Teacher


Smile! You’re at the best site ever


Bohemian Stuff

pulseless electrical activity.

The Observation Post

mistermuse, half-poet and half-wit

Wild Star Landing

Poetry, Facts, Fiction, Inspired by Travel, Art, Science, Nature & Philosophy

Turtle Bunbury

Historian * Author * Presenter * Speaker * Guide

Fierce Writing

Not so much Rage Against the Machine as Slightly Peeved the Taps Won't Work

Victorian Footnotes

Bringing back the forgotten

Etan Smallman

Freelance journalist

Michael Ehrhardt

Permanenter Ausstellungsraum


Writing about writing; words about the world

It's all in the Past!

Writing about current events from a historical perspective.

Mrinalini Raj


History Quirks

The Casual Past


Words and images from the past

The adventures of Janice Duke and her Magical Travelling Paint Box

Caz Greenham...Storyteller...Author...

Creator and Author of The Adventures of Eric Seagull 'Storyteller' series

Movies From The Silent Era

A repository for movies from the silent era

Art Universal

Art as a Sensory

Henry Brooke

Musings, Memories and Miscellanea

Matthew Toffolo's Summary

Daily summary of the life/movie world.

When Angels Fly

Author site of S. Jackson & A. Raymond

off the leash

History, technology, books and baseball.



Writer Site

Memoir, poetry, & writing theory


faces gourmet world of fashion, design and art

From guestwriters

Lifestyle magazine and Readers Digest

The Vintage Toy Advertiser

Suffering ink-stained fingers and occasional staple wounds to bring you wonderful images of vintage toy ads and other retro paperworks

Sauce Box

Never get lost in the Sauce


Theatre, Film and TV.

Smart History Blog

Compelling Stories of Russian History

Newcastle Photography

Photography Blog by Chris Egon Searle

Brave and Reckless

Reclaiming my inner badass at 50

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

Watercolor paintings

Today in History

"Tell me a fact, and I'll learn. Tell me a truth, and I'll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever." - Steve Sabol, NFL Films

The Architect & I

The Nazis assigned him a number but I wanted the world to know his name.

Basic Archaeology

Archaeology News, Interesting Facts and More


Being a web log for the observations of actor, author, cartoonist, comedian, critic, director, humorist, journalist, master of ceremonies, performance artist, playwright, producer, publicist, public speaker, songwriter, and variety booker Trav S.D.

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art


A Green future for the Isle of Wight


a world travel photo blog by Jackie Hadel


Music means something

%d bloggers like this: