Sunday, 27 July 2014

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties is back online!

After a few technical difficulties, I'm very pleased to say that four episodes of Mat Ricardo's London Varieties are now back online, for anyone to watch, for free. The shows feature some of the most interesting and entertaining people from the world of comedy and variety in conversation and in performance, including - Al Murray, Paul Daniels, Eddie Izzard, The Boy With Tape On His Face, Piff the Magic Dragon, Eastend Cabaret and many more. I'm very proud of them, and I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I enjoyed making them!

mat ricardo's london varieties - Show one from Mat Ricardo on Vimeo.

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties - Show Two - Featuring Al Murray, The Boy With Tape On His Face, and much more from Mat Ricardo on Vimeo.

Mat Ricardos London Varieties - Show Three from Mat Ricardo on Vimeo.

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties - Show Four - featuring Eddie Izzard, Piff the Magic Dragon and much more! from Mat Ricardo on Vimeo.

Feel free to embed to share them wherever and however you like!

And if you like my stuff, come see me at the Edinburgh Fringe, and on tour throughout 2014/15.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Street photography in Italia

Just got back from a delightful work/holiday combo in Italy. Snapped off a few images with the iphone while I was wandering around Milan, and various other places.

Oh, and by the way, if images are your thing, I'm now on instagram, as TheMatRicardo, so come and friend/follow/add/stalk/tolerate/ignore, as appropriate :)

And don't forget...

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The dark truth of touring with Brian Conley

Ok, ok, there is no dark truth. It was a total delight from beginning to end, and I sumbit the following curtain-call selfie as evidence that a good time was had by all.

Here's the thing about Conley: He is, as we used to occasionally say at Covent Garden about people with a penchant for schtick, "one of us". He thinks of himself as a singer first. "I was born to sing", he says, "and everything else, I learned". But the thing is, that "everything else" covers quite a lot of ground. He is, to start with, a much better singer than you think he is, unless you've seen him in one of the many big musicals he's been in. Boys got pipes. He's also, of course, very funny - a stand-up with funny bones, but also plunges into audience participation, slapstick, fire-eating.. He's a vaudevillian - someone who can turn his hand to pretty much anything. An entertainer. And there ain't too many like that left.

He cut his teeth on Summer seasons, holiday camps and end of the piers, where to cultivate yourself into a swiss army knife of bits of business was the way to ensure a healthy career, and the stuff he started learning back then continues to make him one of the country's most invaluable pantomime performers, as well someone who, when he decides to, can sell out a national tour, which is what he did last month.

And my god, he's a worker. The James Brown of light entertainment, right there, ladies and gentlemen. There's no wasted time at the top of the show, no time spent "getting to know the feel of the room". He bounds on stage with a hearty "I'M HERE!", and literally within five seconds he's jumped off the stage, in knee-deep in the audience, lobbing out gags in between wall-shaking verses of "Let the good times roll". This is a seasoned fighter, bouncing around the ring landing jab after jab, totally able, as they say, to go the full 12.

Near on two and a half hours, minus me doing a quick twenty in the first half, the rest is all him. And its all killer, no filler. Routines polished over a career that spans all his adult life, and a fair bit before that, too.

For the best part of a month we pinballed around the country, doing a show, then driving through the night to wherever the next show was. Lots of grins from late-night garage shop staff as they recognise the face - or just as often the voice - that just strode up to them clutching coffee and a Kit-kat (He likes Kit-kats). 

So, in short, I had a ball. Gorgeous audiences who were totally up for having fun. Some of the most beautiful theatres in the country. Being driven by Brian from gig to gig, while getting a steady stream of excellent andecdotes about the great and the good. What's not to like?

I also deliberately avoided the tour curse of eating crap and putting on weight - running every day (which is a very nice way to have a look around whatever town you happen to have woken up in), and eating healthlily. I actually managed to lose nearly a stone while on tour, which is insane, but here I am giving it a proper middle-aged man brag anyway. Sorry.

The last date was at Leeds City Varieties - one of my favourite rooms in the world, and one I've played enough times that when I rolled up at the stage door, the staff greeted me by name and started teasing me immediately. Nice. Can't think of a more perfect way to end the tour.

Took a few photos while we were on the road - hope you like them..

A prop from the show. Yes, it is, in fact a puppppppettttt.

Always nice to bathe in the glory of the greats who have played a theatre before you

The boss, giving it tits and teeth

Me, giving it "Oh, if I must..."

Warming up backstage

 So thanks to Brian, and Rick and Gareth - the amazing team that put the show together every night - what a blast.

Also thanks to all the audience members who were kind enough to tweet me after shows and tell me how much they enjoyed my work - means so much. I'm spending most of the next few weeks doing some shows in various places abroad, but will head back to the Edinburgh fringe in August for a return season of my critically-acclaimed one man show "Showman". A strictly limited run of 16 shows only, so click here to book your tickets now!

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Winter Gardens has a taste of its former glory

To the beautiful, slightly-seen-better-days, but BEAUTIFUL Morecambe Winter Gardens for the Morecambe Variety Festival. Great fun, lovely people, amazing venue and one of the longest shows I've ever been a part of!

I really need to work on what my face is doing when I'm performing my finale, huh...
The plans are to restore the Winter Gardens to its former glory, but of course that'll take time and money. They've made a good start, and its great that there's variety being staged in the place, even if its only for one weekend a year at the moment. I hope I get to come back and work it many more times in the future.

Check out some of the names on this poster - Sarah Vaughan! The great Chick Murray! Dancing! Game shows! Bands! Must have been quite the place to be, in its prime. Oh, and look, every Thursday - professional wrestling! One of the fun things I got to do between shows, was look through some of the albums of old promo 8x10s of some of the people who had performed there back in the day. Found a few gems, too...

Oh yes, that'll be the legendary Exotic Adrian Street. One of the most famous bad guys in British Wrestling in the 70's and 80's. He started wrestling in 1957. Care to guess when he wrestled his farewell match? Last bloody year. Also note how, when he signed autographs, he made the "A" of his name look like a cock and balls. Naughty Adrian. Naughty.

I'll be brutally honest, what drew me to this promo card was the achingly 1970's image and name, but then I did a little googling. You're looking at the act that won New Faces in 1977 & appeared on the Royal Variety performance. Pretty good, no? Oh, and if you want to play the "Where are they now" game, well, the guy goes by the name of Lance Ellington, has written songs for quite a few of pops biggest names, and can be seen as one of the lead vocalists in the Strictly Come Dancing band. How cool.

And then there's this fellow. Yep, dollars to donuts that's a very young Charlie Chuck, right there. Hasn't really changed a bit.

Josephine, shaking it

I'm currently on tour with Brian Conley, which is, frankly, a hoot and a half.

I'll be bringing my hit one man show, "Showman" - fresh from a sold out West End run (Still can't quite believe that when I type it) to Dorchester Arts on the 24th of May, (with special guest Sarah Bennetto), so if you live in the area, or know someone that does, then get yourself a ticket and help show that there's an audience for my flavour of variety!

Friday, 25 April 2014


So, in what is starting to feel jarringly like a regular commute, I got on another long-haul Emirates flight back to sun-kissed and spider-infested Australia. To Fremantle, just outside Perth, this time, for the Fremantle street arts festival. I was looking forward to this one. I'd played it a handful of years ago with my old double-act, and had a great time, so I was excited to be going back.

Photo by Hugh Marsh

It didn't disappoint. Flawlessly gorgeous weather the whole week, lovely big juicy audiences, and a delightful gang of fellow performers to twat around with in between shows. This, as Chris Tarrant used to say, is what they want. Gigs like this are always precious for the gift of hanging out with old friends and making new ones, and this weekend, happily, I did both.

Thought it might be nice to talk a little about some of them.

Noa and Uri

I'm not sure if they know how poetic they are, both in their work and in their off stage lives. I first met them at a long gig in Germany and was Immediately charmed into submission by them and their beautiful act. Their chilled yet sunny outlook (as underlined by the name of their act "Cirque No Problem"), their "fallen through a wormhole from a steampunky alternative Edwardian gypsy word" costumes, their duo trapeze routine (on the street!) which tells the story of their love while hanging upside down on a rig supported by volunteers. It's an amazing routine, which includes brilliant acrobatics, stepping on genitals, and some rather excellent relationship symbolism (balance, mutual strength, carrying each other, oh yes) to create something that pretty much always, literally, brings a tear to this weary vaudevillians eye. Oh, and their daughter Hally (Named after the comet!) wins the award for most adorable small child currently in the international street performing scene. By a mile.

Jessica Arpin

There's something lyrical and perfect about the prop that jessica has chosen to become a mistress of - The circus bicycle. I've never seen it used in a street theatre show before, which is crazy, bearing in mind how many bloody unicyles infect the circuit like one-wheeled herpes. A bike, though, is different. People have bikes. In the same way that I like to use props that people have experience of, in the belief that when I do something unexpected with, say, some spoons, it means more to an audience because, y'know, they have spoons, there is something ideal about a performer using a bike on the street. Bikes belong on the street. it doesn't look out of place, or special, until she slides, effortlessly, onto it's saddle, riding it backwards, or upside down, or sitting on the handlebars looking nonchalant as it describes big lazy circles around the edge of her audience. Blissful. Jessica also talks backwards. Fluently. In six languages. I love that my job lets me  know people like this.

Pete Mielniczek

I've known Pete for nearly 30 years. When I arrived at Covent Garden in the late 80's, fresh faced and with a young brain full of the dream of somehow being able to make a living out of performing, he was already there, being hilarious and silly. And here he was, still being just as silly as he's always been, if not more so. His is a gentle, subtle form of clowning, if you can say that about someone who smashes plates, swears loudly at a dustpan and brush, and encourages his audience to chant loudly about how he doesn't make them chant loudly. Off stage, he's chock-full of understated style, but on stage, with his over-sized, shapeless grey suit, red beret and absurd, massive white boots, he looks like a man drawn by an over-excited child on a tight deadline.  His is one of the acts that the other performers watch. Always a good sign. People often talk about a good clown as being a master of controlled chaos. Pete shows you that the control part is wildly overrated.

 Here are a few more things my camera saw while I was there.

Finally, here's Pete's drawing of the band he saw one night at a cafe in town. I take photos, he draws pictures.

A lovely time was had by all, then. Hoorah for that. And while we're on the subject of lovely times, I'm ridiculously busy this month. Very excited to say that I'm the sole support act for Brian Conley's brand new UK tour, which starts next week! Full details here. I'm also doing a few dates of "Showman" in the UK this year, the first one is coming up on the 24th of May in Dorchester, with special guest Sarah Bennetto - click here for info and booking.  There are more dates to follow, so I might well be coming to your part of the country, or indeed world, soon. Ooh, cryptic. Get me.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Long weekend in Dubai

Just got back from a few days in Dubai. I doubled up on gigs - performing at a street theatre and comedy festival during the afternoons, and then zipping off to a sparkly cabaret venue at night. Dubai is a complicated, and, if I'm honest with myself, problematic place, which brings up too many conversations to be neatly discussed in a stupid little blog like this one. The audiences, though, were uniformly lovely, and that's as good a litmus test as any I've found.

Over the next week or so I've put aside some time to work on some new material for a little later in the year, which is always an enjoyable process, and involves buying/making some new props, which still doesn't seem like real work.

The best camera is the one you have with you, they, say, and I had my phone with me in Dubai, so..

The brilliant Akira Endo killing it


Dubai's version of Elephant & Castle, clearly

This predictably opulent shopping mall provided the venue for a couple of the shows