The Colour of Nonsense
At the studios of Splash, Line & Scuro, Cutting Edge Conceptualists, things haven’t been looking too hot of late. Splash is paralyzed by indecision and all the bright young turks are queueing up eager to knock him off his perch. Then, out of the blue, comes a salivatingly mysterious multi-million pound commission.
The Colour of Nonsense was an exuberant satire on an art and theatre world always in search of the New…. a hilarious cartoon journey through the shifting borderlands between sense and nonsense. As mutinous drawings threw the studios into animated confusion, only Edward Lear’s “Dong with a Luminous Nose” seemed able to shed any light into the chiaroscuro of chaos.
To find out more about the show click here.
Funded by a DEFRA Climate Challenge Award Invisible Bonfires took on a cabaret format with the live music elements, automata, puppetry, short films and even a 3D Sequence. On a pan-global Tour of International Climate Change Conferences, the Brittonioni Brothers are chewing on the hot topic of Global Warming. Run entirely by cycle power and hot air, with special guests Mammon and Pan, the show had live music by The Lotus Pedals (Seaming To, Semay Wu, Howard Jacobs, Simon King of Homelife fame along with mixing & projection by The Professor: Mr Robert Storey) The brilliantly Brylcremed Brittonionis zoomed us from Outer Space to the Inner Atom as they explored their subject through such apocalyptic topics as the Evolution of The Carbon Weevil, the Fairy Angel Conundrum and the coming of the new Plastic-ene Era. The film CARBON WEEVILS is available for sale in our shop.
To find out more about the show click here.
Commissioned by The Royal Shakespeare Company for The Complete Works Festival, this show explored the supernatural in Shakespeare and the death of Faerie. With the Brtittonnioni Brothers as guides, the audience embarked on a labyrinthine tour of belief and superstition which finally culminated in their arrival on the RST stage to take up spears with Pan against the superficiality of the modern world. Live music by The Lotus Pedals (of HOMELIFE fame).
To find out more about the show click here.
Commissioned by Bath Theatre Royal for The Bath Shakespeare Festival this was a mystery thriller set in the early years of the Silver Screen. The fledgling movie moguls, desperate to elevate the tone of their upstart art form, enlist the help of the mighty Theatre Impresarios of the day to shoot the first ever Silent Tempest. They set sail onto an ocean of uncontrollable egos, murderous intrigue and cut-throat rivalry in a love affair with the Cinema Kid that all but kills off The Old Queen Theatre. There is a film sequence from the live show on YouTube and a full version available on DVD from our shop.
To find out more about the show click here.
A co-production with Andy Hay’s Bristol Old Vic and Neil Bartlett’s Lyric Hammersmith, this was the chilling tale of one woman, three men and a Bolt from the Blue. It was an immense stage journey into the Frankenstein Myth with nods towards the whole horror genre - movies, comics, and creation myths from The Golem to Terminator. Determined to oust the great Professor Sailcloth’s domination of Frankenstein academia, David G Scrivener travels to Switzerland to uncover the actual Spark of Life, which he is convinced is secreted in a remote churchyard in the mountains. But the diabolic hotelier Count Obladee confounds him every step of the way, until David G finds himself drawn into a hellish parody of the original novel itself, replete with a grotesquely cartoon-like Igor (played by acrobat Jonathan Priest) and the ghastly Monster himself. Here he is forced to use his knowledge of all things Frankensteinian to make The Monster’s Mate. This was the first FF show directed by Andy Hay, now collaborator, director, friend and guide on almost all recent FF shows. The specially commissioned music was by HOMELIFE.
Winner of one of the very first Wellcome Trust Science on Stage and Screen Awards, Forkbeard worked with writer-director Paul B Davies (Radio comedy writer and ex-Crystal Theatre of The Saint) and neuroscientist Emil Toescu. Concerning the uncharted grey matter between our ears, this was a journey through the membranous tendrils to the primordial soup of the ancient lizard brain –where the imagination finds itself deserted and alone in the most haunted house of all. Sponsored by VARI-LITE, who provided all the moving (intellegent) lighting, with additional funding from The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
For more information click here.
The Barbers of Surreal
For the Barbers business is booming. Their traditional hairdressing skills have been shamelessly extended by recent breakthroughs in Genetic Engineering - an exciting new line in organic toupees is already in production. But the shop's newly acquired ex-Laboratory chain-smoking rabbit has formed a dangerous liaison with the steamed-up mirror, and also a curiously Alice in Wonderland-like old crone and the egg shampoo is acting funny .....
The Fall of the House of Usherettes
The tale of LIQUID FILM, a long defunct celluloid mixture once sprayed from specialized projectors and formerly produced in the crusty old Empire cinema's subterranean studios; of leaked liquid ghosts that lurk in the labyrinthine libraries; and of the family of old crones that guards them against tomb-robbers for The National Archive. To access a page by page display of the accompanying cartoon comic please click here. More information on film and projection in this and many other shows can be found on the USE OF FILM pages. There is also a DVD version of the live show available for sale.
The India Rubber Zoom Lens
The fabulously famous Brittonioni Brothers’ job in this show was to provide Leonardo da Vinci with a Zoom Lens powerful enough to project them all into Eternity. Among the vital increments on the lens mount was not only the Moebius Loop for Infinity but, a notch further up, the ancient Hindustani symbol for Eternity. It was all a massively prestigious cross-century collaboration of international big-heads Leonardo had gathered from across Time. Some with specific roles aboard the amazing Time Ship, such as Mrs Beeton (Ships Cook) Marie Curie (ship’s doctor) Grinlin Gibbons (ships carpenter) etc.
Invasion of the Bloopies
"What is a Bloopy, Grandpa?" asked the little girl to whom this unnerving tale was told by her dissolute Grandfather amid his frequent visits to the drinks cabinet. The Bloopies were pink, they went about in herds and they automatically formed queues behind anyone they found standing still. They lacked all bones, especially spinal bones, and where they once had the power to decide, they had willingly allowed themselves to be reduced to flaccid matter by the ADMEN. A nightmare comedy about consumerism gone mad.
A Serious Leak
High on the rooftops of Government buildings, strange scientific advances are rumoured to be in progress. Secret doorways have been built into cine-screens showing films of vast unspoilt wilderness. The Ministry of Environment is filling these locations with waste to become their newly established 'Garbage Archives'. Waste Disposal has been solved for Humankind. But the fantastical imaginings of the employees charged with the maintenance of this new dimension are resulting in escaped Pterodactyls, Yetis and giant Crows. Inspired by the privatization of The Water Board and a water pollution disaster in Camelford at that time. The show ended with a real vertical Devon waterfall in a cupboard with water cascading down over rocks and mosses after the audience gets a fleeting glimpse the door is slammed shut and rendered out of bounds forever. This show (rather hilariously in retrospect though certainly not at the time) caused a mass walk-out of Stanislavskiists when it appeared in Oslo. As they left in mounting numbers they had to climb over the rope that connected us to the film world.
The Cressida Folly
Capillary matting drew water from the pool and, together with its spinning head and non-stop dripping body, the Folly sprouted hydroponically fed cress during the Red Strimmers’ stay in Glasgow.
The Red Strimmers
The Red Strimmers was a special commission by Nikki Milican (NRLA) for 'Art In The Garden' at the Glasgow Garden Festival. The top to toe bright red garden machinery addicts demonstrated their portable gardening aids, their glowing redness battling with the horticulture surrounding them. It was very much inspired by the growing market for ludicrous must-have tools available to the devoted gardener. This, like The Great British Square Dance, was a highly popular street theatre show that has taken the company all over the world.
The British suffer from it so badly it was a hard theme to resist. Also Global Commerce with its vital Trade in Piggy Slippers and Portable Burmese Camping Shower Units. The simple plot concerns rivalry for the Firm's coveted Merit Award in Load Bay 3. It featured classic FF gadgetry, conveyor belts, a Forklift Truck and Big Dave, the simple 8-foot nephew. Also featured the cartoon “BOXMANSHIP” which you’ll find on our YouTube site.
An Experiment in Contraprojection
This show starred the Brittonionis and Ed’s first stage role as Mr Jobling, their grumpy projectionist. Determined to try out a new system of breaking down The Celluloid Divide and thus connect the real with the reel, the Brittonionis introduce the monstrous Eisenstein Projector Mark 2. Needless to say it all goes terribly wrong and the brothers find themselves endlessly multiplying in ever-diminishing versions of their real selves – a nightmare of alter-egos. The set , which opened like a book, revealed a film world in a central screen identical to the one on stage, in and out of which the increasingly confused brothers found themselves looping and refracting. This show was perhaps the most widely travelled taking us, over the ensuing few years, to Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Poland, Canada and all over Europe.
A Waste of Time
The cult media-man arrives to solve the ‘Puzzling Question of Time’ in a set built of staircases, hatches and several hundred bottles. Ascending one staircase the 'same' man re-emerges through a hatch in the floor. As he exits to the right, so he re-enters on the left. These and other Escher-like conundrums beset the electrician hero sent here on a re-wire job. In amongst it all is an outsize Hourglass, firmly placing it at the Waist of Time. This was Ed Jobling’s first show …then as technician with Forkbeard.
This presented more nightmare horror comedy. Professional hypochondriac Mr Pillow has spent a lifetime touring the world’s nursing homes in search of sympathy for his non-existent maladies. He as found the unscrupulous Dr Smallman and his nursing home peopled by star patient (a life-size puppet) Anthony, the sobbing mechanical Miss Moody, a shrunken Bishop, a Nose-gun and a midget Russian physician eager to steal Dr. Smallman's Shrinking Disease as a Soviet discovery. All this in mock conventional false-perspective box-set with hospital curtains. This was the first Forkbeard show a young art student called Ed Jobling saw. And so the trap was laid.
The Blue Woman
Was now appearing in all the Brittonioni Brothers’ shows as the spectacular finale. She Inflates to 16 ft. high and 10 ft. wide in two and a half minutes powered by 3 Electrolux vacuum motors. She was sewn together from 97 separate latexed nylon sections and made by Penny Saunders.
In 'Myth' Tellywoman invaded the Porta-Pak-Extenda-Theatre, a sort of kit-form cardboard set (assiduously designed by Simon Britton) and set about disrupting the two actor’s ‘Lost Theatre of The Id’, a touring theatre show. Even when switched off and unplugged she still manages to saturate the airwaves and dog their every move. Eventually, in the form of the massively pneumatic Blue Woman (Penny’s magnificent inflatable which is still going strong to this day) she enveloped all. And so TV triumphs over the live act.
Plants, Vampires & Crazy Kings
Coloured fluids pumped round a higgledy-piggledy polythene Garden Centre backyard in one of Forkbeard's nightmare Horror comedies. Biker son Derek with polluted blood, dubious claims to Throne and vampire tendencies, nevertheless loves Nature, Heavy Metal and going down the pub with Brian and Tracy. Ranting Mother Proprietress with cottage loaf for hair-bun tends the ashes of their forebears, held in root-fed ancestral wheel-about Bonzai Garden.
Set on springs this was a luxury sedan-chair lavatory carried around by its Attendants at outdoor events - audiences were literally bursting to see it.
The Brittonioni Brothers
These fabulously trousered, mirror-shaded and brilliantly brylcremed avant-gade film makers first jetted in from their endless global tour of International Film Festivals at the behest of Andrew Wood, founder of the wonderful Prema Arts Centre in Uley, Gloucestershire. They haven’t really stopped jetting since then, appearing in several Forkbeard shows that follow in these pages. They originated as our way of presenting the live-action stand-alone films which we made every summer at that time with cameraman Robin Thorburn, father Jim Britton, Jack Holmes and Nigel Barker. The Brittonionis would soon be climbing in and out of their films Crossing The Celluloid Divide with increasingly mind-boggling abandon.
The audience sees the Ghost Hunter Holcombe Rogus, approach the window, across the fields, in Film, before he bursts through the door in person. The room he enters is like a mediaeval spaceship with the world contained in the little central cupboard, and nothing beyond the, bitten-off floorboards. Here, in Limbo, he will meet Doormat, the Butler, at present hovering below ten gallons of green jelly.
The same theme but an outdoor version for Festivals and Fairs. Behind its barrier fence a 25 ft. high Head Quarters is winched up its look out tower. Things 'in general' get under way.
The Cold Frame
Taylor's backyard is invaded by a tinpot Major arriving in a giant military head that mushrooms out of his coldframe.
Penny’s love of springs and the wonderful Alliance Spring Company off the Holloway Road led first to the idea of a Sacred Spring on springs, then to a church on springs, and so to the story of rival monasteries and legendary tipples on a distant Hebridean Island with unaccountably springy turf.
The Library Ssss-sshow
The set was made from 3 tons of books at £10 a ton, some in teetering and swaying piles threaded on wires to the lighting rig, mostly shelved precariously for the cataclysmic finale. A Cult Author invites the audience to witness his exploration of a magnificent library encapsulated behind a vast white membrane. When he cuts his way in with a scalpel, and the bleeding membrane flies off over the audience, he finds himself lost on the wrong floor. He is somewhere deep within the library's bowels, in a dingy world where flabby bookworms scuttle beneath mounds of disembowelled books, and two lugubrious look-alike Librarians hunt them with 6 inch nails. This show also featured John Schofield from the Bristol-based Crystal Theatre of The Saint.
The Brontosaurus Show
The show was set within the skeleton of a young Brontosaurus (the set of the show) recently shipped over from The Siberian Fossil Works. Further crates arrived during the performance as the two palaeontologists prepared for a world lecture tour, trying out their theories on the audience who were referred to as colleagues from the museum world. Finally the neck (concertina'ed in its crate) and the skull arrive. The picture on the right shows the skeleton of a tiny angel which they find curled up in a nest of feathers inside the cranium of the skull, thus rocking the very foundation stones of Science, History and Religion itself in one fell swoop.
The Bird Show
A Ceremonial Worm Roast of a show for late nights at festivals and fairs. Made for Bruce Lacey’s Fire Fair at Ling in North Norfolk.
The Human Mousewheel
This was exactly what the title suggests. Of a pentangular shape and designed by Chris who regardless of safety would tread his way round at ever-increasingly lethal speeds…luckily surviving to tell the tale. Built with Chris Thomas and performed on the streets before H&S had reared its head.
Seal of the Walrus
First show with Penny. A Secret Society has been forced by over-obsessive secrecy into secret underground bunker. To save space, Hawk & Hare live back to back and have done for 25 years, until they discover that all their cryogenically preserved presidents have melted and the world above has never missed them. Further film appeared in this show.
The Clone Show
A Show, about Genetic Engineering, set in a Cloning Factory. This was the show that brought us to the delighted attention of Penny Saunders who ran away from Covent Garden Community Theatre and joined the Forkbeards. A whole new range of making skills and a true kindred spirit and imagination leapt us into new found lands. The Clone Show saw our first use of 16mm film in the form of a cartoon Tim made and interacted with called ‘Could a Whale Fly?’
The Splitting Headache Show
Set in a bedouin-style tent that stank of tar, this show saw our first ever collaboration with a director, a role heroically taken on by Paddy Fletcher of Incubus Theatre Co. It told the tale of a travelling salesman 'Headache' selling laughing heads to unhinged desert-dwellers Fatty & Wife, played by Mandy Smith from Birkenhead Dada.
On an Uncertain Insect
Two estranged entomologist brothers hunt the same rare Lepidoptera, a species whose baffling elusiveness has been the death of along line of ancestors before them. The mechanisms and entanglements separately devised to encounter this maddening night creature become increasingly fantastic.
Desmond and Dorothy Fairybreath
Still going after all these years, Desmond and Dorothy have been known to make the occasional 'comeback' performance to satiate the most jaded of poetic appetites. Desmond needs no introduction - the self-styled Bard of Basingstoke has been making grown men weep into their beers after just a few stanzas in clubs and pubs, at Poetry Circle AGM's, on streets and in theatres.
Dorothy's are of the 'Kinetic' variety - like ‘Ship Poem’ and ‘My Collection of Pressed Husbands’’, and thanks to her, sherry and racy cocktails flowed freely at all Fairybreath Functions.
Their boxed set Poetry Anthology entitled "Wildly I Dribbled On A High Rock" produced in 1982, can be bought at the FF shop.
The Great British Square Dance
Again created by Simon Britton this was mostly an outdoor show, although it was often performed in indoor spaces where the noise of the planks stamping could be exhilaratingly deafening. It was a very funny City Gents’ institution piece about English pecking-orders and rampant competitiveness. Originally made in the year of the Queen’s Jubilee it was without doubt at that time performed more times, in more places, at home and abroad, to more people than any other Forkbeard Show. See it on our YouTube site. It also appeared on numerous TV shows over the years from Magpie to The Max Headroom Show.
Created by Simon Britton this ongoing process, often lasting many hours, involved the repeated changing from Red to Blue to Yellow suits. It was performed in many foyer spaces, outdoors, but mostly in shop windows
Two wayward sons compete for their mother's attentions with School photos, end of term reports and tales of the trials & tribulations of adolescence. Again, the three brothers performed, Simon as the ever-spinning mother who refreshed her sons after their exuberant bouts of competitiveness, from her orange and lemon squeezer breasts - one for the bitter, one for the sweet.
The Government Warning Show
This media antagonism towards some of the performance art & experimental theatre was rife - as it is whenever news is short. Inspired by this, the show was set in a huge confiscation depot for inventions and artefacts deemed unsuitable or too controversial for the public eye; all labelled High, Middle or Low Art Content. Health Warnings on cigarettes had just come out. This show featured brother Simon and his fantastic rat-trap fired WALKWORK, a piece he also exhibited widely at that time.
The Road Show
Numerous shows, one-offs, events and gallery pieces took place during this time. The Road Show was on-going daytime gallery installation performance which appeared at Southampton Art Gallery, a place that warmly welcomed many performance art shows and installations at that time, despite the national media fury of the time fired at all things experimental funded by The Arts Council. Among those who attracted the most apoplectic rage, in the tabloid press, were Genesis P Orridge’s C.O.U.M, and D-DART, and anything with a weird name like Forkbeard Fantasy or The John Bull Puncture Repair Kit….
The Single Grey Hair Salami Show
Between '75 and '78 Forkbeard did several pieces with Ian HIinchliffe, Matchbox Purveyors. Apart from the Oval House, Rotherhithe Warehouse, and the Birmingham Arts Lab, this show was taken mostly to Village Halls. Other shows with Ian Hinchliffe included ‘Aargh’, ‘THE Blenkinsop Pearls’ and ‘Blenkinsop 2’
The Cranium Show
This was a highly disturbing wildlife documentary concerning a day in the life of a half-arachnid half-humanoid Cranius Kithchenetus, male, female and zookeeper, played on different occasions by Lol Coxhill, Simon Britton and Tom Powell. The crane-operator male, and his dangeous though legless trolley-borne female were separated from the audience by wire mesh caging, providing delightful parallels with matrimonial bliss. This show saw us gain our first foreign touring to the Lantaren Rotterdam’s Unrequited Love Festival. From this time we were invited on many further tours to Holland over the next 10 years.
The Rubber God Show
This touring theatre show ran to a taped narrative and music by Lol Coxhill, played from a Revox Tape-recorder positioned at the stage-front and featured no live speech. It told of Blankman in his self-contained module falling for the parasitic attentions of a nomadic Rubber God. Our first ever Guardian review called it “Sheer delight”. We also took the characters and their gadgets to numerous outdoor events. It was important in these days for us to be endlessly adaptable and take on whatever work was offered and so gain maximum exposure as well as experience in performing.
The Excretia Show
Our first touring show. Many of our early shows had versions and permutations for all the different places we were asked to perform at and in. These could be pubs, clubs, streets, shopping precincts, the emerging alternative fairs and festivals, galleries and art centres. The picture shows us at the only just opened and then completely empty St Edmunds Church, now Salisbury Arts Centre. This piece, continuing our interest in insect life-forms and mechanisms, was about a loud & persistent mess-making Life Form and his drab Council Cleaner companion evolved entirely to tidy up behind him.
Our 1974 ‘happening’ at the Fringe Club had drawn us to the attention of one Birkenhead Dada with whom we hired a space for the following year’s Edinburgh Fringe 1975. Along with saxophonist Lol Coxhill , brother Simon Britton, Mine Kaylan and Ian Hinchliffe, this week-long stint of evening ‘shows’ earned us the dubious notoriety of getting banned from the Edinburgh Festival… We didn’t return until 1997.
Southampton Performance Festival
Mostly we performed in parks, streets and the St Mary’s Market and one show in the Southampton Art Gallery, with Mine Kaylan. Here we saw and met up with numerous artists like Bruce Lacey, Lumiere & Son, Bath Arts Workshop, Rob Con, Ian Hinchliffe, Reindeer Work, Hesitate & Demonstrate, Dave & Clare and many more; new openings, new contacts, less isolation.
A Potted History of Theatre
This was performed to 500 enthusiastically screaming teenagers at The Southampton Nuffield Theatre, at the invitation of then Artistic Director Rob English. This wild and unfettered comic crash through the evolution of theatre from Caveman to Beckett, helped us get our next paid work at the 1975 Southampton Performance Festival, organized by Hugh Adams.
A Forkbeard Fantasy
This was the very first ‘officially booked’ live performance, with just Chris and Tim performing. We didn’t have a company name at this point, it was later we adopted the Forkbeard Fantasy. The show, “A Forkbeard Fantasy”, was originally written as a story about a time-travelling Viking Invader, but we never gave ourselves time to learn the lines let alone rehearse. It ended up instead as a kind of dada happening with a large box, a transistor radio and a tool-kit. It was performed as a lunchtime show at the Edinburgh Fringe Club to a bemused and probably quite unimpressed smattering of lunchtime feeders. Later in1974 we took ourselves to Warwick University Festival at the invitation of Jeremy Shine. Here we constructed a ramshackle painted cardboard structure in which we based ourselves, making forays into the crowds, doing what we then called ‘infiltrations’, moving about among the punters in the bars and audiences for bands like Kilburn & The Highroads and Hatfield and The North. At this event we met performance artist Roland Miller. Liking what he saw, Roland encouraged us to apply for our very first grant of £200 from The Arts Council’s Performance Art Panel.