Satirists like nothing better than political chaos to inspire them. They have that in spades in the UK, the United States and elsewhere.
Spitting Image, the anarchic satirical puppet show famous for lampooning world leaders, celebrities and royalty, is perhaps the most significant political satire for generations. A new series came back on television in October, 2020, with ten-episodes on streaming service BritBox after a 24-year break. Now is probably the perfect time for the show’s revival.
The new series lampoons the rich, famous, and global figures including Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Prince Andrew, pop superstars Adele and Beyoncé, car-maker Elon Musk, performers Kim Kardashian and James Corden, UK politicians Boris Johnson and his aide Dominic Cummings. Characters from the US presidential race - including Donald Trump - also feature. Climate change activist Greta Thunberg appears as a roving reporter with regular weather updates.
The man behind these preposterously ugly latex puppets is North Norfolk’s Roger Law who lives in Wells-next-the-Sea, known for its harbour, beautiful beaches and the 200 picturesque multi-coloured beach huts.
Roger believes in pricking pomposity and his puppets leave no area for doubt sending up the absurdity of establishment figures.
The original Spitting Image show ran for 18 series between 1984 and 1996 and was watched by up to 15 million viewers as it poked fun at world events and characters involved in those events. It was nominated for nine BAFTA Television Awards, winning two, and four Emmys during its 131 episodes. It was revered and despised in equal mesure, ridiculing public figures including Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, US President Ronald Reagan, the Royal Family and Mick Jagger.
Roger Law, artist and caricaturist, was one of Spitting Image’s creators. He and co-creator Peter Fluck, working as Luck and Flaw, created three-dimensional models of characters for photographing for the front covers and features pages of newspapers and magazines across the world. These lifelike caricatures sowed the seeds for the idea and morphed into Spitting Image years later.
Roger Law was a Fleet Street national newspaper illustrator, cartoonist and journalist with The Observer and The Sunday Times. His work also appeared in The New York Times and Der Spiegel. But it was his old friend Peter Fluck, who he met at art school in Cambridge, who led to them launching the sensationally successful Spitting Image series in 1984.
After 12 years of meeting the impossible deadlines of Spitting Image, Roger Law was exhausted. He went travelling to recover, spending time drawing and painting wildlife in Australia and learning new skills about ceramics in China.
He discovered China’s city of porcelain, Jingdezhen, which has produced the country’s finest porcelain for 1,000 years. And it was there a remarkable new strand to his artistic bow developed over more than ten years working alongside Wu Song Ming, a skilled carver of porcelain.
Their common language was solely drawing and although Mr Wu had never seen the sea it was marine birds, crabs and other shellfish which featured heavily in the ceramics they made together.
Roger Law’s drawings and fine porcelain have featured in an exhibition at London’s Sladmore Contemporary gallery in Bruton Street.
On his return to the UK, Roger was approached to create a new series of Spitting Image.
His artistic life has seen him working as an illustrator, modeller, sculptor, and ceramicis as well as being the creative energy behind Spitting Image.
He splits his time between his home and studio in Wells, Norfolk, and a team of people working with him on his ceramics in the Far East.
Norfolk’s wildlife and marine life gives him inspiration for much of his work. But the current state of politics provides the fodder for the acerbic quality of Spitting Image which he sees as public service satire.
And if that were not enough for a 79 year-old grandfather of eight, he is looking to produce a new series of Spitting Image for American television in the near future.
A retrospective of his artistic life From Satire to Ceramics featuring painting, puppets and ceramics was held at Norwich’s Sainsbury Centre.
Roger Law's work can also be viewed on his website.