Myth (1985)
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.
1986: Chernobyl Disaster, Mad Cow Disease identified, Human Genome Project is launched and Space Shuttle Challenger explodes.
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 has 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.
Hypochondria (1986)
A Waste of Time (1987)
An Experiment In Contraprojection
Work Ethic
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.
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 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.
Hampshire Chronicle (1987)
1987: Underground fire in Kings Cross Tube station, Hurricane force winds hit South of England and AZT drug for AIDS released
A Serious Leak (1989)
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.
1989: the Collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Tianaman Square Massacre
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.
'Work Ethic' also contained a short animation for which Tim provided live voice-over.
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.
1988: A bomb is exploded on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Hubble Space Telescope goes into operation and Prozac released for anti-depression.
Some tour dates for "Contraprojection"
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1980 gave us the start of the Iran/Iraq war, fax machines and domestic camcorders. It also provided Forkbeard the opportunity to be increasingly ambitious in both stage shows and outdoor events.

The Seal of the Walrus (1980-1)

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 Brontosaurus Show 1981
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 Cold Frame 1982
A Military Sales Rep., replete with orders and a commanding personality, invades the privacy of an Old Trooper's backyard. Arriving via the Cold Frame, Major Britton subjects the old gaffer to a series of ludicrous tests and games to to assess his worth as a people's person.
Headquarters 1982
1981 and the start of Margaret Thatcher's determination to privatise nationalised industries. First ever use of the word "Internet". And Forkbeard increasingly up-size the scale (and venues) of their touring shows.
1982 brought the first C.D. player, the Falklands war and more Forkbeard.
A similar theme to 'Cold Frame' but mostly performed outdoors at festivals etc.
With John Scofield of "Crystal Theatre of the Saints"
Springtime 1983
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.
1983 saw the launch of Microsoft Word, 4 million dead in the Ethiopian drought and the IRA Harrods bombing.
Forkbeard and Film
Forkbeard's love of film and film making was originally inspired by their father, Jim, who often made humorous films with the pupils at the schools he worked. Unable to afford either camera or projector in the early days, Forkkbeard's first use of "Film" on stage was a series of 35mm slides projected very fast to humorously create the illusion of a film (‘On and Uncertain Insect' 1978). Their first 16mm movie was an animated cartoon called ‘Could a Whale Fly?’ in ‘The Clone Show’ in 1979 with which Tim performed, talking to the cartoon characters. This was Forkbeard’s first ever live interaction with film. Forkbeard started to use more and more Super 8mm and 16mm cine over the next few years although their first real ‘Crossing The Celluloid Divide’ moment took place in “GHOSTS” in 1985 when the Ghost-Hunter Holcombe Rogus is seen to walk out of the film and onto the stage. By now they had also made stand alone films, of which 'The Bonehunter' (1982) was the first. For more information about Forkbeard's interaction of film on stage known as "Crossing the Celluloid Divide" CLICK HERE
Jim and Chris 'sparring'.
"Could a Whale Fly?"
1984/5: 'Band Aid' formed and "Do they know it's Christmas" is released, first identification of the AIDS virus and the first Apple Mac computer.
Ghosts 1984/5
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.
Speaker wiring diagram for"Ghosts"
'Plants, Vampires and Crazy Kings" 1985
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.
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 Library Ssshow 1981
Forkbeard Perennials No.2: 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. 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.
One of the Brittonioni Brothers' first masterpieces was "Who Shot the Cameraman"(1985) in which Chrissy put his head into the film for the first time ever.
An extract from Timmy's lecture notes
An early design of the "Cunliffone".
An early design for a Crazy King
The mysterious contents of the Cunliffone
Hi-Tech (1985)
An adventure in to the miraculous world of Microscopy.
An early sketch for "Hi-Tech"
Part of an early script
The Porta-P-Royale
Festivals & Fairs
Forkbeard have been attending the Festival circuit since the mid 1970's, most famously with "The Great British Square Dance", "Desmond & Dorothy" and many outdoor and night time events.
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.
A must for any Festival goer.
The Brittonioni Bros carried on through the 90s and are still dusted down, balder and wrinklier, right up to the present day. Age has made the youthful 80s incarnations in the films all the more absurd.
THE Brittonionis in Buenos Aires - sent by The British Council as a peace offering after The Falklands War.
‘Preparing’ in a Dressing Room in Mexico…
..our armed guard
One of Timmy’s Audience Snapshots
The set had hidden upper and under floors we had to crawl through, frequently bumping heads, so we could make our impossible reappearances.  The set was huge and very heavy and took most of a week to build, only to be performed for a couple of nights.
Fellow Forkbeard No. 3: Ed Jobling
Kidnapped in about 1987 from Portsmouth Art School and a glamorous future as lead singer in the techno-punk band 12:88 Cartel  Ed was locked inside the cramped confines of one of Chris’s big outdoor constructions “The Acoustical Machine”. After a couple of years of learning Forkbeardese, he became supremo technical whizzkid as well as frequent performer.
With the help of friends like Chris Thomas, Danny Harling, Mark Kryszinski and others we had started motorizing stuff both in the shows and in venue foyers, activating them with sensors and pressure mats; sounds hidden in corners, people who talked to you, films either looping on 16mm or Press Button. These soon became ‘living’ whirring exhibitions - artefacts, pictures, films, puppets, lifesize creatures and contraptions - the first being at the Melkweg in Amsterdam in 1982, thanks to Marion Onneke.
Rare footage of the "Accoustical Machine"
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Archive 1980-89



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