I never win anything, this is a fact.
Therefore, I was delighted to break this curse, when I was fortunate enough to win a twitter competition which got me a guided tour of Forkbeard Fantasy’s exhibition on the South Bank, as well as four tickets to their theatre production “The Colour of Nonsense” in the Purcell Rooms.
So yesterday, me, Debbie, my sister Helen and my bro-in-law Mike rolled up at 5pm and were greeted by the gracious, exuberant and highly talented Tim Britton, one of the founder members, performers and artists of Forkbeard Fantasy.
The exhibition itself covers their 30+ years of performance art and theatre. Their costumes, props, gadgets, mechanical peepshows (including the smallest cinema in the world), films, animations, puppets and mannequins were all on display and (mostly) interactive. This was quite trusting of them considering some of the robust assaults on them, not just by the children, but over-enthusiastic dads who were treating them like wrestling partners in some circumstances.
It seemed there was a team of good natured repair-folk everywhere, patching, sewing, twiddling and tweaking to ensure things didn’t get shorn or split or smashed. In some circumstances though, exhibits, some of them of venerable age, needed to be roped off to save them the indignity of utter destruction.
Making the imagination real is a conundrum that has foiled many an artist throughout history, but what impressed me most was how they’ve managed to achieve it, on limited budget.
Take the Unicorn for instance, this is a triumph of Art, Engineering and Anatomy, combining these disciplines they’ve managed to create something unique, fun and genuinely beautiful. It was also tough enough to be able to withstand being ridden in a theatre production. It’s jointed and moves just like a real Horse (unicorn!). Had the exhibition not been so busy, we’d have been allowed a go on it. Now I’ve only ever ridden a donkey before, when I was six in Cyprus. Not many people could say that they’d ridden a Unicorn. Perhaps it was for the best though as my fulsome backside may have crushed and damaged something so magnificent. I would not want to be responsible for the extinction of such a beautiful and endangered creature. So we had to make do with controlling its movements through a system of ropes and pulleys.
(photos from BBC Website)
The productions themselves are surreal, darkly amusing and very much centred on fun. The special effects are mischievously ingenious and enhance the experience. And the knowledge that goes behind making and maintaining them is impressive.
They are a multi-talented and multi-disciplined bunch, I imagine them working away like Gnomish tinkers, in a dark little cave, giggling, working with outrageous looking tools, hammers and sparks flying and consuming copious amounts of tea and cake all day. And combined with performing such that the finished article, i.e their productions are masterfully executed on stage.
As for the play, The Colour of Nonsense was compelling and very funny. It poked gentle fun at the trend in the arts to discover “the next big thing”. And the next big thing in this case was “Invisibilism”. It paid a respectful nod (with a wink) towards the Emperors New Clothes.
There was a great narration through projected comic strip (graphic novel don’t you know!) film as well as other very funny effects. There was a fell villain, the slurpy Angstrom and the three heroes Line, Splash and Scuro overcome the adversity of feeling isolated and out of touch with the art world, to become the leading lights.
It’s only on for two more days, so it’s well worth checking out if you have time.
Otherwise, go to the exhibition, that’s on till the 8th January 2012. If you have kids, or if you just like great art and interactive fun exhibits, then go! Have a blast! Tug and pull! Just not too hard!