Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Drawing on New Inspiration

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Drawing on New Inspiration

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

Gerald Scarfe is one of our most famous political cartoonists. You probably wouldn't know him from Adam but the chances are you'd recognise his cartoons.

He has caricatured countless politicians down the decades, mostly in The Sunday Times, magnifying every minute tic or blemish into a terrifying Achilles' heel.

Bush, Blair, he's done them all. "Bush has been wonderful material," he says with the air of a rose grower describing mulch. "Of course, the nastier they are, the better material they are.

"One I had trouble with was Iain Duncan Smith. I didn't know what to do with him; he didn't seem to exist. I ended up drawing him with just a circle for a head."

But Scarfe, son of a banker and a teacher who took to drawing while stricken by asthma, is a man of many parts. He has done the famous animation for Pink Floyd's The Wall, a Disney film (Hercules) and umpteen sets for opera and ballet productions.

Over 40 years he has produced countless books, TV programmes and exhibitions.

Next week you'll spot his work in another arena. He provided an animated sequence for the touring production of the musical Miss Saigon which opens in Sunderland on Tuesday.

He says the producer, Cameron Mackintosh, gave him a call. "He wanted to move the show out of the West End. Apparently in the West End production (which Scarfe admits he never saw) there were some very extravagant effects, like a helicopter landing on the stage, which are pretty impossible to do on tour.

"But in any case he wanted the new production to look different. He asked me to work on a sequence to accompany a song called The American Dream. There's this guy who lives in Saigon who thinks everything wonderful exists in America and if he could only get there, he could crack it."

Scarfe duly delivered a piece that fitted the bill. But, being Scarfe, one particular image might be post-watershed material if shown on the telly. He laughs. "I was amazed Cameron let it go into the final show."

He has been pushing at the boundaries of public taste all his life, ever since he started out doing scurrilous cartoons for Private Eye. …

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