Theatrical Daze & Nights IV
Footsbarn Theatre -- Cornwall, England

I met the members of Footsbarn Theatre on the brick-
lined streets of Amsterdam, Holland while we were
performing all over town at the Festival of Fools in 1975

I was a street juggler and
theater tech for a the Great
Salt Lake Mime Troupe

I took the "Magic Bus" to England, and
then British Rail over I.K. Brunel's famous
Saltash Bridge into the county of Cornwall

I explored the hedgerows of Cornwall by foot, lorry, and bicycle for the next year.

Footsbarn's base of operations was a farm named "Trewen." deep within the hedgerows off the A-38 highway between Liskeard and Plymouth. The nearest post office was in the tiny village of Trewidland. (Map)
Steve Lawrence, Paddy Haytor, and Joe Cunningham drove to Liskeard railway station (Top Center), and then to Elsie's Red Lion pub, before they took me home.
The main house (Top Left) had a big kitchen and the "telly." The "Umbrella Tree" (Top Right) rose above the barn and other out-buildings, which housed almost two dozen people. The rolling countryside (Bottom Left) was invigorating after hustling around big cities. I looked forward to new adventures (Bottom Center), and found them for sure!

I was a juggling jester, MC, and stagehand.

The Red Lion pub on Padstow harbor hosted many a Good Time Band performance, led by the brilliant Nick Prater.

Beauty & The Beast was part silly pantomime, part serious emotions.

I went right to work with the company, travelling from one end of the county to the other with their production Legend, a play cleverly combining three Cornish tales about underground sprites, or "Knockers," as the tin miners called them. It was presented in their giant new "marquee," or circus tent, and we practiced how to set up and take down several hundred square feet of rope and canvas per venue until we were actually good at it. After a vacation in Amsterdam, we went back on the road with a couple of smaller "Pub" shows -- Smallman McQueenie, This Is Your Life A.K.A. Luigi's Circus, and the Good Time Band. We reached back into time for a holiday pantomime, freely adapted from Perrault's Beauty and the Beast, and performed it in many dozens of village halls at Christmas. Rod Goodall joined the group playing an ugly sister, or dame, per English thearical tradition, and he was soon joined by director Dave Johnston for two weeks, when Mandy, one of our actresses, got appendicitis just before the premiere. After that gruelling tour, we worked up a show for schoolchildren -- Sneaky Sam and the Meadow Folk, which mixed tales of elvish folk with much a more recent English legend about musical talents finding their fortunes in the wide world beyond their homes. During this time, the Good Time Band began a metamorphosis, where various busking routines were integrated into the musical revue. I myself stood on my tea-chest bass and juggled, while spouting extemporaneous comedy during my interval. After others and I came and went, more bits of magic and pub-show shenanigans were stirred in the soup until it mutated into the Circus Tosov, sometimes called the Rockin' Tosovs. No matter how high or low a Footsbarn production aimed, the Tosovs followed like a rambunctious shadow.

Margaret, Rod, and Paddy
in Midsummer Madness 1976

Rod as "Jasper Hook"
in Peter Pan

Joe as "Mr. Gloom" riding on Rod in Dancing Bear 1977

Me (Lower Left) on Muntplein in Amsterdam 1977

Even after I moved back to Amsterdam, I continued to help Footsbarn whenever they came to play, and vice-versa. John Kilby found his way from London to lend his capable hand at managing the group. I helped with Midsummer Madness, and The Dancing Bear. I also recharged my own performing batteries by doing some street theater shows with them in 1977, before I moved back to America. Nobody has ever had a better group of friends than these talented people.

Gregg (Left), Rod (Center), & Paddy (Right -- as Bobbie Bullethead) in Circus Tosov 1983

John Kilby
Denver 1983

Maggie Watkiss
Denver 1983

Joe and Margaret Beiyre
in Doctor, Devil, & Fool

The last time we met personally was at the World Theatre Festival in Denver, Colorado during the blistering hot summer of 1983. They had come to town with The Doctor, The Devil, and The Fool, a spectacle based on the primordial imagry of medieval Mummer's Plays. There was nothing fancy -- just good original music, funny noses and masks, and first-rate acting -- under the folds of a huge circuslike tent. They were the hit of the festival. The timeless pagentry created a spell that bewitched their audiences, stirring thoughts and emotions to a depth almost unknown to American theater-goers, but appreciated for that very reason.
During midday shows, the scruffy ol' Tosovs held forth in the same space. "Cornish punks on sawdust," wrote one flabbergasted reviewer, even though the company actually lived in Portugal at the time. Everyone delighted in the antics of the Piramus and Thisby Players, lovely Margaret and Maggie (veteran actresses from Trewen days), Dave, Joe, Paddy, Rod, and their accomplished, albiet unconventional orchestra.
Speaking of which -- Gregg Moore, a former road warrior from the Salt Lake Mime Troupe was in Denver with Footsbarn too. He had been making music with them for a number of years and would stay for a few more. Stuart Curtis, another M-Trouper, came out from Salt Lake to jam with his long-time bandmate.

Michael (as Alfie) and Lizzie Novotny at the Festival of Fools in Amsterdam
Michael Novotny, a charter member of Footsbarn and former stalwart of the Friends Roadshow, flew in from Hollywood. Michael's clown character Alfie had a running competition with Paddy Haytor's Bobby Bullethead -- or should I say ROLLING competition? Alfie brought a fancy new BMX mini-bike to Denver with him, and challenged Bobbie Bullethead to a battle of distances off whatever ramp he chose. Those two had been playing this game for over six years, ever since they'd first pedaled their scruffy wheels side-by-side into the slimy green waters of the pond adjoining the Vondel Park Theatre. These events were preceded by DAYS of put-downs, ranking, bragging, and loud-talking by both "Alfie Kenalfie" and "Bobbie." After the big splash there was even MORE bluster.

The 'Abracadabra' lady from Festival of Fools days in Amsterdam was in Denver too. Phillipe Petite, a friend of Rod and Paddy from LeCoq's school in Paris was an invited guest of the festival -- he had made quite a name for himself a few years earlier walking between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York on an unauthorized tightrope.
In the few evenings when they weren't working, the actors took their instruments to the local bar and made music on their own. I went along, and we sang some of the old Good Time Band songs which were still in the Tosovs' rotation. It was almost as if time hadn't passed -- but it had, and would continue to do so.
After leaving Trewen, they endured ten hard years without a permanent home base. Footsbarn Theatre finally settled in central France. They have visited every populated continent, and completed a successful tour of India in early 2005. Paddy, Joe, and Rod are still at the center of the action, they still perform in marquee tents, and John Kilby still manages this sprawing international company.

My pride in their accomplishments knows no bounds, and you are welcome to take a glimpse of their website: Footsbarn Theatre
I made a trip to France to volunteer for their 35th Anniversary Celebration in 2006
Read About Our Adventures HERE

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Credits: All composite graphics are made from digital scans of personal memorabilia, and are presented as scrapbook samples of my own experience, based on the 'fair use' principle of international copyright law. Black and white photographs of Footsbarn Theatre are from their website, and are used with the company's permission. Color photographs of Footsbarn and Cornwall were taken by myself in the 1980s. Copyright© by Michael Evans 2005