BFI Southbank will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Spitting Image on 27th February – one of the most innovative and daring television programmes ever conceived.
Thirty years ago, Roger Law and Peter Fluck were happily ensconced in a converted Temperance Hall in Cambridge making cruelly funny plasticine caricatures. These models were photographed and presented to the world in print under the anonymous byline ‘Luck & Flaw.’ Unlike a drawing, the caricatures looked like they might move and, Geppetto-style, they did. Law and Fluck, with co-conspirator, TV comedy supremo John Lloyd, unleashed one of the most shocking and hilarious TV series ever.
A TV satire with a difference, Spitting Image was first broadcast on 26 February 1984 and continued to mercilessly caricature the great and the good of Britain until 1996, using latex puppet created by created by Peter Fluck, Roger Law and Martin Lambie-Nairn.
No politician or celebrity was safe: Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Regan and The Queen to Mick Jagger, Alan Bennett and Arnold Schwarzenegger were all captured in latex for the show, which included scripts from Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, Ben Elton, Red Dwarf co-creator Rob Grant, Richard Curtis and many more – and featured vice work from then unknown performers such as Hugh Dennis, Steve Coogan and Harry Enfield.
The BFI is bringing together Spitting Image impressionists, writers and those politicians the show so lampooned including Lord Roy Hattersley and Lord David Steel in a very special one off event Spitting Image: A 30th Anniversary Celebration.
Spitting Image: A 30th Anniversary Celebration will offer a chance to hear from a panel of well known writers and performers who gave the show its satirical edge, daring to produce outrageously risky material that ridiculed the establishment, to increasing public popularity. These panellists will include Harry Enfield, Ian Hislop, Kate Robbins, Rob Grant, Richard Holloway and the voice of Margaret Thatcher Steve Nallon as well as the show’s creators Fluck & Law.
They will be onstage with some of the politicians they impersonated, who will discuss the effect their puppet personas had on their careers. The event will use clips to examine the show’s controversial impact at the time and its lasting legacy, and reveal behind-the-scenes secrets of the performers, puppeteers, writers and directors.
The evening will also include a special preview screening of BBC4’s Arena: Whatever Happened To Spitting Image?, directed by Anthony Wall, with contributions from creators Peter Fluck and Roger Law and comedy supremo, producer John Lloyd. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Anthony Wall and these creative minds behind the show.
Revealing the extraordinary technical achievement of the series, Arena meets the caricaturists, puppet-mould makers, designers, puppeteers, impressionists, writers and directors who worked tirelessly to ensure the show landed its weekly jibes and punches at the politicians, royals and celebrities of the day.
Tracing its journey to our television screens, through 12 years of huge audience figures and weekly controversy to its eventual demise, BBC Arena will ask what Spitting Image got right, where it went wrong and whether its absence over the last 17 years has left a hole in the schedules that has yet to be filled by modern broadcasting.
“We’re delighted to host a panel of well known writers and performers who gave the show its satirical edge,” said a BFI spokesperson, “and who became household names in the process, alongside some of their victims – politicians and celebrities – who will discuss the effect their puppet personas had on their careers.
“Using illustrative clips, we examine the show’s controversial impact at the time and its lasting legacy, and reveal behind-the-scenes secrets of the performers, puppeteers, writers and directors.
“So, in the words of one famous crew member: ‘puppets up, loves – wave those dollies in the air!'”
• A Joint event ticket available £15, concs £11.50 (Members pay £1.50 less). The BFI Southbank is open to all. BFI members are entitled to a discount on all tickets.
• BFI Southbank Box Office tel: 020 7928 3232. Website www.bfi.org.uk/southbank
• The Guardian: Margaret Thatcher and Spitting Image: we had no idea we would be joined at the hip
“The harder we tried to undermine Thatcher’s policies, the more successful Spitting Image became. We even tried portraying her as a pleasant person; it did not work…”