“I never went to school,” Richard Fordham tells us. He grew up milking cows on a farm in West Wales, and was informally what we now call ‘home-schooled’. Despite (or because of) that, he landed a place at Cambridge and studied Economics. He had a highly successful career as an academic and consultant. But now in semi-retirement he intends to become a professional performer. This is his first live gig to the general public. This charming eccentric is, one might say, an emerging artist.
This really is a very niche kind of performance.
Have Fun is a swift romp through fourteen of Richard’s catchy, gently witty songs. The tunes are by Felix Rigg. Variously described as, “a cross between Flanders & Swann and Ian Dury & The Blockheads,” and, “Eminem, but without the sex, swearing and violence,” Richard really is rather unique. In his inimitable style he runs through Dance With The Daleks (two-inch plastic toy waved around in each hand), and The Pensioner Shuffle, Damn, Doodle, Damn and Revenge. So quirky is his performance that it’s not clear whether donning the false beard back-to-front for Bearded Monday is intentional. Later I’m convinced he was totally oblivious to the fact.
This particular performance is being filmed. One camera operator is in the middle of the front row, the other to the side. Richard plays every single song direct to camera. The audience are, effectively, spectators of a film production – irrelevant, unnecessary and ignored except to be told the title of the next song. Even that is mostly to camera. We’re certainly not of any interest to Richard. Pity. Given that this gentleman’s performance skills are, let’s say, limited, (he can’t sing, his timing is questionable and his movements...well, less than fluid) I suspect his natural charm may usually go some way to compensating. But not so on this occasion. To all intents and purposes we don’t exist.
I like his songs. References to Putin, Geoffrey Archer and Prince Charles will go down well in the golf club and gentrified bars across the land. But this really is a very niche kind of performance. It took me back to The Fringe several decades ago, when everyone felt they had a right to be here, many could afford it, and most would get an audience. I wish any emerging artist on the mature side of middle-age the very best of luck. So, good luck, Richard Fordham!
“I hope you have fun for the next hour,” he wishes us as we arrive. “I certainly will!” And he clearly did.