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Invasion of the Bloopies (1991)
"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.
The India Rubber Zoom Lens (1992)
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 (ship's Cook) Marie Curie (ship’s doctor) Grinlin Gibbons (ship's carpenter) etc.
some early images and notes from "Bloopies"
Draft letter to the film labs discussing neg-cuts and effects.
Tim's initial reaction to seeing a video recording of a rehearsal of "IRZL"!
Early southern venues tour of "IRZL"
Part of Ed's tech running order of "IRZL"
Part of T & C's running order
Part of early script
From 'The Guardian'
Snippet from the air hostesses sequence of "IRZL"
Snippet from the kids programme 'BLT' of "IRZL"
As previously mentioned this has become one of the main trademarks of a Forkbeard stage show. In its simplest form it is the trick of merging from stage to screen and vice versa. Here are two examples of the films projected on stage which the performers interact and 'dissolve' in to and out of.
In this clip, Tim uses a pair of scissors to 'cut' the projection screen and appear on stage, leaving Chris on film....
In this clip, Tim and Chris perform the "Harry Worth" routine by synchronising their 'on film' bodies with those on stage (first their arms and legs appear either side of the screen, wine is poured through, and then they both emerge on stage leaving the film to continue......
1992/93: World Trade Centre bombed, a Tsunami kills many on Okushiri Island and the first bagless vacuum cleaner released.
1994/5: the English Channel Tunnel is opened, riots break out in Brixton, London and the first DVD players are announced.
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.
Part of the original film......
.....then projected on to live set and performers.
Some early sketches for the show
Parts of early scripts.
Snippets from the intro film.
The basic set, a 4-sided platform with one end much wider than the other. At the wide end was a 7 foot high screen on which the main events were shown, at the other was a powerful 16mm cine projector with a 10mm lens- (i.e. very wide angle). The platform rotated on rings (pink) that allowed a power cable to the central point where there was a slip ring that fed a 240-v supply to a rotating socket for the projectors on the platform. Also on the platform was a stack of 3 16mm projectors that gave a conjoined image onto Side 2 ).
Use of projectors on stage
‘Lilyhair’s Bedroom’ with a vertical bed, a working doorway (onto which a loop of a bank manager trapped in one of the Usherettes' fiendish film loops is also projected). The stack of 3 projectors was visible through this side.
The set for ‘The Lab’ - where films were processed. It was divided into 3 parts all of which were sites for projection: On the right was an old stone sink in which Lilyhair meets his end while his head is pumped up until it bursts. In the centre of is the 3-part screen that shows Nancy metamorphosing into a monster (using 3 projectors sychronised to project the 3 parts of Nancy her head, waist and legs.
On the left was a paper screen that showed Earlobe escaping a loop he had been trapped in by swinging out on one of Deirdre's hairs caught in the 'gate' of the projector. He fially bursts through the paper screen and his own film image.
Both sides were hinged onto the front screen. Both had a wheel at the other end that allowed them to roll with the set as it rotated, but could also be opened out independently from the platform.
The "Bank Manager" loop
Along the front of the stage were 4 x 16-mil projectors, they supplied the films of: 1. Earlobe trapped in his Loop 2. Animation film of The Galloping Daemon of Time...projected onto the whole set as it rotated. 3. 'Scratch' animation film for Nancy as the monster. 4. Lilhair's face getting bigger and bigger on the balloon. For the entrapment of Earlobe in the cellar the SET WAS OPENED OUT so that the interior of its structure showed the film store, a huge bottle of bromide (which was actually the back of the stone sink) and the main screen in the centre showed Earlobe in the cellar. So this was now being front projected, whereas up to now images on this screen had been back projected.
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 .....
1996/7: BSE (mad cow disease) hits Britain and Princess Diana dies in a car accident.
Part of an early storyboard.
"The plot draws on the extremes to which people go to mould their appearance, pandered to by the cosmetics industry. Its barbershop location derives from the historic association of barbers with medicine and surgery as well as cosmetic experimentation." Greg Giesekam writing of ‘Barbers’ in Western European Stages 2003
From "The Barbers..." programme.
Some early notes and drawings for "Barbers..."
The film reflection is back-projected onto the mirror-like screen the performers look up at to allow for audience sightlines. The ‘misting-up’ effect disguises the projector being switched on and off. When the film/mirror was not active the ‘alive’ mirror illusion was retained by a flickery shadow effect (the heat of a low voltage light bulb wafting a scrap of foil about). The screen itself is stressed to look like an ancient mirror.
Excerpts from the Corridor Sequence.
The Barber's Mirror.
1998/9: the 'Good Friday Peace Agreement' is agreed, President Bill Clinton denies then admits "sexual liaisons" with White House intern and computers are tested for the so-called 'Millenium Bug'.
Storyboard detail of corridor scene.
The Brain
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.
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. Sponsored by VARI-LITE, who provided all the moving (intellegent) lighting, with additional funding from The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
It was Forkbeard's first collaboration with a scientist, Dr Emil Teuscu, though scientific themes have long been a preoccupation of the company.
It was also Forkbeard's first collaboration with an outside writer/director Paul B Davis.
'Neon Circus' generously donated the Light Wire system used for "The Nervous Ghost".
How the show was written.
Vari-Lite Production Services very generously loaned the intelligent lighting system which was programmed by their training manager Coral Cooper.
A clip from "Seasquirt to Psychiatrist" which featured in the show.
The Nervous Ghost sneaks up on Emil.
"A Crocodile!"
Captain Weird drives the Brothers to Infinity.
The 'Dual Brain' theory.

1990/91: Iraq invade Kuwait, "The Simpsons" is first aired, the first web page is published by Tim Berners Lee, the hole in the Ozone layer is identified and the first GPS system for cars goes on sale

Fellow Forkbeard No.4: Janice May
In the mid-90s we were joined by Janice, who ran The Albany Centre in Bristol with her husband Alan (both formerly Chats Palace, London). Her first mistake was being brilliant at figures – one of our biggest weaknesses. Her second was being a delight for venues to talk to and a superb negotiator. She was doomed - and remains Forkbeard's Company Manager to this day.
Fellow Forkbeard No.5: Paul Dunaway
As a theatre technician at The Hornpipe, Portsmouth and punk band bass player, Paul also found himself trapped in the Forkbeard pickle jar in the early 90s. He became Forkbeard’s full-time Lighting Technician for many years till he left around “Shooting Shakespeare” in 2007ish.
New Studios!
In 1996 came an Arts Council Lottery Award to buy and develop the site above Penny’s Barn. Our journey from front rooms to chicken sheds to leaky halls to the draughty luxury of Penny’s Barn meant, with this huge dollop of dosh, we’d earnt a custom-built 40 square metre studio space with converted cottage for sound recording and film editing and place for people to stay.
With all this extra space we started holding annual Residential Summer Schools. We ran 17 Summer Schools across the next 15 years - alongside hundreds of workshops and short courses. The abrupt termination of our Arts Council Funding in 2011 put an end to a much sought after experience for artists, performers, film-makers, students.
"The Little Match Girl" at the Lyric Hammersmith (1997)
When Neil Bartlett took over The Lyric Hammersmith he got us to join him on his first Christmas Show. Penny designed and built all the sets and costumes while Chris and Tim performed the comic parts - Angels, Knife and Fork, Teddy Bear and many more. For us, more accustomed to life on the road, it wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience - a brush with ‘straight theatre’, festering Greenrooms and 12 hellish weeks stuck in London.
Penny tries out the show's turkey costume
Some early costume sketches for "Matchgirl"
More and more Exhibitions!
From this time we nearly always had an Exhibition running somewhere in the UK. The longest went on for 2 years from 1999 to 2002 at the V&A’s Theatre Museum, in Covent Garden, attracting over 350,000 visitors. Technically very innovative compared to exhibitions of the time - sound, moving image, animated objects and intelligent lighting (provided by VariLite).
The last (before setting up The Museum of Forkbeard at Waterslade Studios) were at The Southbank  - in The Spirit Level at The Royal Festival Hall in 2012 - 50,000 visitors in just 4 weeks – and the finale “Forkbeard: Theatre of Animation” at Arts University Bournemouth in 2016.
JUMP TO THE 2010's


Archive 1990-99



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