Outdoor Events & Photographic Projects
Performances could happen in almost any location - by the sea, in city precincts, at dock sides etc.
1976, the year Concorde, Apple and The Damned were all formed, saw Forkbeard manically busy and creative, devising at least 4 new shows, working with various other performers and artists and continuing with subversive indoor and outdoor events.
The Rubber God Show (1976)
"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 Cranium Show (1976)


"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 year.""

1977, the year Elvis died and "Never Mind the Bollocks" by the Sex Pistols was released, saw Forkbeard concentrating more (although by no means exclusively) on indoor performances and venues.
Roddy and The LImpet - An Underwater Drama (1977)
Forkbeard Collaborators (Number 1): SIMON BRITTON
Perhaps of all the collaborators Forkbeard has worked with over the decades the most significant is Tim and Chris's elder brother Simon. Having also been to art college, Simon's artistic inspiration and obsession was born out of the mechanics of movement and the movement of mechanics. Accordingly his work invariably involved mechanical contraptions, either as stand-alone kinetic artworks or as part of an interactive performance.
A comparatively early example of Simon's work was "Shoe Walk" (Soul Aim Machine).
"Walkwork" - a riff on "Shoewalk" which involved four performers attached to each other by 'foot traps'. This later became the overture to "The Great British Square Dance".
Forkbeard Perennials no. 1: THE GREAT BRITISH SQUARE DANCE (est. 1976)
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.
Forkbeard Collaborators (Number 3): IAN HINCHLIFFE
Ian Hinchliffe was a performer who could bring a sense of menace, unpredictability and a surreal/absurd humour into any creative arena. He refused to be drawn into creative self-analysis and defining of a new art form (i.e. 'Performance Art' or' Live Art)'. In the early 1970s he founded Matchbox Purveyors which demonstrated his love of Music Hall, Northern comedy and traditional jazz.

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 Road Show (1976)
"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…."
Colour Change
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
Forkbeard Collabotators (Number 4): CRYSTAL THEATRE OF THE SAINT
Crystal Theatre of the Saint playfully engaged with a cross-disciplinary approach towards performance that saw the use of light-technologies and live music among other disciplines. Crystal Theatre was committed to experimentation and a fresh, multimedia approach to drama. Performances were staged both indoor and outdoor, and the productions were often adapted to incorporate original elements of the venue.
Forkbeard with Crystal Theatre of the Saint at Cafe Schaan, Rotterdam.
Forkbeard Collaborators (Number 2): LOL COXHILL

Lol Coxhill was one of the great characters of British music. He had long been a stalwart of the European jazz and improvised music scene, but he reached all kinds through his collaborations with a wide range of music – Afro-Cuban, R&B, soul, progressive, punk, minimalist, electronic and beyond.

Lol was frequently a 5th, sax-playing centre piece to the "Great British Square Dance" and provided soundtracks to many of the early shows.

Catch the Turkey (1977)

With Simon Britton once again

Men Only (1977)

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 (1977)

"The 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."

From the Guardian 2012 - only 40 years too late
Weird Woman (1977)
1978, the year of the first mobile phone (a.k.a. the 'brick') and Space Invaders game. Also the year for Forkbeard of several anarchic 'revue' type acts such as 'Desmond and Dorothy' which later became staples of the company's performing catalogue.

The Grid Reference Show (1978)

From "San Francisco" magazine
Other shows such as "The Grid Reference Show" started as one-offs or single workshop/performances and were then developed into small scale touring shows.
Other shows, such as "The Splitting Headache Show" proved (prophetically) financially disastrous.

"On an Uncertain Insect" (1978)

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.

Excerpt from "Art and Artists" magazine 1978 by Hugh Adams. For full article click here
Forkbeard Perennials No. 2: DESMOND FAIRYBREATH and DOROTHY
Originally conceived in 1978 this married couple of noble poets have been orating their epic odes in cabarets, theatres, fairs and street corners ever since
A rare photo of the Fairybreath sisters.
This particular element of the show later developed into "The Human Mousewheel" and became a regular event at fairs and festivals.
The Clone Show (1979)
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?’
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The original impetus came from Chris. He’d got a taste for performing at college in London and an inspiring American tutor, Denis Calandra, introduced him to a book about the 60s Happenings in the USA, and experimental work by the likes of Grotowski, Grand Magic Circus and Kantor. Chris even booked shows for the college, including the Polish ‘Theatre of the Eighth Day’  and ‘Triple Action Theatre’. Tim, intermittently studying English Literature, was becoming a writer/illustrator/cartoonist. Forkbeard would turn out to be the perfect vehicle for all three brothers, endless possibilities for mixing media from the very outset.
And there was Edinburgh, where they lived: The Richard Demarco Gallery, The Traverse, The Pool and the Festival, all helping to feed the brothers’ appetite for pursuing creative futures. Later, Tim and Chris would sell their drawings at a street stall on The Mound, making enough money to go and see shows in the evenings.  Among these were an early People Show, Phantom Captain, Tadeusz Kantor, a hilarious Ted Bijou Show and, in 1970, Joseph Beuys and the Dusseldorf artists at The Edinburgh School of Art.
The name ‘Forkbeard Fantasy’ came from Chris and Tim’s first show, a piece Chris had written and booked in for 2 lunchtime showings at the Fringe Club. Too much of a good time meant they never got round to rehearsing it, let alone learning their lines. Instead they staged an anarchic event involving the obsessive construction and deconstruction of a huge box. Watching this were members of ‘Birkenhead Dada’ who joined in unannounced on the second performance. They decided to share a venue the following year.
Meantime Chris and Tim experimented with further events here and there, mostly on the streets, in pubs, festivals, universities and Art schools. Their contraptions were getting more and more elaborate and hilarious and their disrespectful anarchic style of humour was developing.
No amount of Googling has enabled us to date our visit to Warwick University Arts Festival. Only Jeremy Shine, who we cajoled into inviting and even paying us - will remember. It was our first paid gig - £25 - enough for petrol and the other vital fuels of beer and food. We built a ramshackle house in the Students Union concourse, out of brightly painted cardboard boxes. Hidden inside, we’d invent our next foray or ‘infiltration’, as we called the performances at the time, sallying forth around the building, especially at the edges of the live gigs, ‘Kilburn & The Highroads’ and ‘Hatfield and the North’, so we could enjoy only the very finest music while we worked.
This wild journey through the evolution of theatre from caveman to Beckett, caught the eye of art critic Hugh Adams who asked us to work at the 'Southampton Performance Festival' that summer - a melee of performance art, music and experimental theatre featuring artists like Bruce Lacey, Rob Con, Matchbox Purveyors, Reindeer Werk, Lumiere and Son and many more. Needing a name for the programme, and thinking we could always change it later, we opted for Forkbeard Fantasy. It stuck. Working with performer Mine Kaylan, most of our performances took place on the streets or in parks, with one at the Southampton Art Gallery, sharing the evening with another fresh arrival on the performance art scene, ‘Hesitate and Demonstrate’.
'Edinburgh Festival' (again). Joined by Simon and Mine Kaylan, with guests Ian Hinchliffe and Lol Coxhill, the evening was divided between us and Birkenhead Dada. The two weeks of shows earnt us the dubious notoriety of being banned from all future Edinburgh Festivals, although we did in fact sneak back in 1997 with “The Fall of The House of Usherettes”.
We’d happily try out everything and anything, seeing any kind of invite as an opportunity to explore ideas. And by no means all of it worked. But humour, cartoon and invention ran through it all. We’d take on anything from village fetes, students unions, festivals, pubs, galleries and tours of village halls.
At the Warwick festival we’d met up with performance artist Roland Miller. Liking what he saw, he nudged us into applying to The Arts Council’s Performance Art Panel. And so came our first ever grant of £200.
In 1974, the year of the Miner’s Strike, the three-day week and the Watergate Affair, brothers Chris and Tim Britton found themselves accidentally forming an experimental performance company. Across the first few years they often joined up with their other brother Simon, a painter and kinetic sculptor, Mine Kaylan, Robin Thorburn and others. What Forkbeard and many of its peers did in the 1970s was gradually infiltrate mainstream theatre and art and change it forever. What Forkbeard was doggedly adding to the pot was outlandish, disrespectfully comic and often controversial.
1975 was the year of the first disposable razor, the end of the Vietnam war, Margaret Thatcher chosen as Conservative leader and our "Potted History of Theatre" at Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre, which we performed to 500 screaming school kids, ramped up by the deafening soundtrack, flashing lights and smoke
Edinburgh Festival (1974)
Everything was very low budget. We spent a lot of time scrabbling around in skips, scrap yards and junk shops. The idea for a whole show could come from something we’d find. This is the expenditure for touring “The Rubber God Show” 1975 - a relative big budget blockbuster for us in those days, thanks to a small grant from Southern Arts.
Paddy Fletcher of Incubus Theatre directed the first version. Robin Thorburn and Mandy Smith also performed in the show.

   


Archive 1974-79

 

 

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