If you were strolling past the National Portrait Gallery onto Charing Cross Road this Wednesday lunchtime, you would have chanced upon the opening of London’s latest and - dare we say it - greatest art exhibition.
But this scintillating showcase of West End theatre-themed street art isn’t in the National Portrait Gallery itself. It’s a hundred yards away on Tourism Island, right next to the Garrick Theatre and home of TheatrePeople.com’s main West End ticket shop.
The dazzling designs on display are the work of Lower Fifth pupils from Chigwell School in Essex. Their art teacher Sharon Wales approached TheatrePeople with the initiative for a competition in which her class would create works based on popular London shows, and we loved it.
The five winners (pictured L to R: Henry Tang, Yash Chopra, Jack Breyer, Sonal Ohrie, Emma Tilbrook) have been rewarded with an ongoing exhibition of their work in the Charing Cross Road shop, and a family visit to a performance of Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
"The students are in the first year of their GCSE, and they’re doing a street-life project,” Sharon explained. "I thought it was a fantastic project to put together, in that it links in to the artists that they were studying - Banksy, Keith Haring and other graffiti artists. They’ve used text and image to come up with some bold designs, specifically for this space in Tourism Island."
Yash Chopra took inspiration for his winning design from Four Seasons musical Jersey Boys, and wittily made a link between the gutsy New York pop quartet and latter-day Chigwell Boys.
"I used a lino print, and then scanned it into the computer," Yash said. "The lino cut was quite hard to do – it took quite a few lessons. Miss Wales is an inspiring art teacher and she’s taught me quite a lot." A theatre fan, Yash was looking forward to enjoying his prize. "The last show I saw was Wicked," he said, "which we’re going to see again today."
Henry Tang’s striking poster promotes London as an entertainment centre, rather than serving as an advertisement for one particular show.
"I was inspired by London itself and by the artist D*Face," Henry explained. "You can see his style especially in the way I’ve done the Cupid wings. It’s mostly hand-worked, and for the text I used Photoshop, which I also used to edit the picture and enhance it." The 15-year-old artist was chuffed with his prize. "I don’t see a lot of theatre, so it will be a nice change to see Wicked today," he said.
The other three winners produced equally impressive works, all of which display a mature grasp of simplicity. Sonal Ohrie’s poster for Rock Of Ages shows a pronounced Banksy influence. Jack Breyer adopted an abstract, minimal approach for his poster for The Lion King, and Emma Tilbrook’s interpretation of The Phantom Of The Opera incorporates her own photography of church architecture to haunting effect.
"I love art," Emma said before heading off to see Wicked with her classmates. "It’s always good to do something you enjoy, and I’d certainly consider art as a potential career."
You can see all five prize-winning designs by the pupils of Chigwell School in an ongoing exhibit at our theatre tickets shop on Tourism Island, 11a Charing Cross Road, London W1 - right in front of the Garrick Theatre.