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Thursday, 28 July 2011

WamBam, Winehouse & Work

A week spent dividing my time between bouncing around some lovely London club gigs and talking at a wall at home in an attempt to remember all the words (so many words!) in my one man show. A show which will have it's first night , along with the first nights of two other shows I'm also in, next Wednesday. Eeep.

Played the Wambam club on Saturday night. Wambam is always a good night, and Lady Alex was on excellent form, which was just as well as a couple of tables were booked by kinda famous not very good cage fighter and celebrity vagina accessory Alex Reid, who was celebrating his birthday. I had a slight sense that things could go south, imagining that perhaps Mr.Reid would prefer the focus of the room on him rather than a smart-mouthed variety monkey in a nice suit, but in truth he was fine, behaved himself all night, and even bigged us up on twitter.

There was, though, a slight vibe backstage, as we had all just found out the sad news about Amy Winehouse on the way in to work. It was interesting how twitter played into this, at least for me. I got on my train at London Bridge and saw that there was a rumour that something had happened. By Waterloo east, a few people started asking for confirmation either way, and before I got off at Charing Cross it had been confirmed. There was a grim fascination in being able to watch the news literally break online, in 140 characters, before my eyes. From a friend of a friend who heard something, to a Sky News alert in a handful of minutes.

The news was, of course, completely tragic. Enough has been said about what a loss of talent it was without me stating more of the same obviousness. I was a little surprised to hear so many people saying that it was a shock though. Desperately sad, yes, but shocking? If you had been asked, a year ago, to map out two or three possible futures for her, surely this would have been one of them. That's why it's so sad, because it was so predictable.

I was a little annoyed by the amount of people equating, in some way, her self-destructive addictions with her talent. Two different things, and largely unrelated, in my opinion. On twitter one person even seemed to align her awful fate with "not selling out". How infantile.

She was good because of her talent, skill, craft and passion for her artform. Not because she was addicted to various intoxicants. There's have been plenty of addicts who have died young and created nothing, and plenty of maverick artistic geniuses who have lived, and created great works, into old age, living clean as a whistle. To find a connection is to do a disservice to anyone who creates good work, and it is to indulge those who have such awful illnesses. It helps neither.

To happier things..

Two gigs last night, one at Jojo's where I was a guest performer in the Folly Mixtures show. I always have gorgeous nights at Jojo's and this felt like one of the best - packed house of attentive and giggly people. Lovely. Then I jumped in a cab and zipped over to a show with Abi Collins, Fancy Chance and Mysti Vine at Home House. Tiny little packed room, and high-calibre fellow performers meant my fun night continued. It struck me, as I sat in the taxi flying between shows, that this was pretty cool. Another one of those "conversations with your teenage self" moments. I was always a shy teenager, and if that kid could see me zooming through the west end as the sun goes down, having just played one show, and on the way to another, still a little sweaty from the stage but ready for more - both shows full of talented and cool people who I am lucky to call my friends.. well, he'd want to make it to 42 much quicker than he ever thought he would..

Just a couple more gigs this week, and then a weekend set aside for clearing my head before I make the trip to Edinburgh for the month of August.

Rehearsals have soothed most of the panic, and now I'm just itching to get started. can't wait to get working and see what craziness the next 4 weeks has in store for me.

Tickets for "Mat Ricardo: Three Balls and a New Suit" at the Voodoo rooms, Edinburgh festival are now available here.

Friday, 22 July 2011

There's no people like...

Thanks to the ever-supportive Liz Arratoon for the nice little interview in The Stage this week (Click the image for the big version). Makes me sound like I know what I'm talking about.

We did the interview on the phone, and at one point I said something to the effect of "Spandex covered Cirque Du Soleil style wank" and Liz gently said "I am writing down what you say, Mat". She ended up not including that particular quote, so there's still a chance of me realising a childhood dream and being one of a thousand identically dressed shift workers on bungees... I joke, for the lols, as is my way.

Just over a week to go until I jump into the flyer-pocalypse that is the Edinburgh fringe and I'm still scare-cited, but looking forward to getting started, spending time with my cabaret fraternity, and encountering the inevitable emotional roller-coaster that it'll be.

Right now pretty much everything is focussed on a few days in my diary in mid-September that is currently marked "Do something nice somewhere with Lesley"

Also - anyone know what happened to The Fabulous Salami Brothers? I owe them a hug. And the bill for some therapy.

Tickets for "Mat Ricardo: Three Balls and a New Suit" at the Voodoo rooms, Edinburgh festival are now available here.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Wet Spot

Saturday night working in a sweaty dark basement club packed full of rowdy up for it Leeds folk? It must be the Wet Spot club, and indeed it was. Great show, topped by local heroine Anna Fur Laxis doing her "Prestige" act, which recently won her first runner up in Miss Exotic World - the big Las Vegas burlesque competition. This was kinda her homecoming gig after that victory, and the crowd loved her, as they should, for she is great.

I've played the Wet Spot once before, about a year and a half ago, when I shared the bill with the wonderful Tricity Vogue. We had a meal together before the show back then, and she, in passing, said that she knew of a spot going on the fringe in Edinburgh, and that I should think about doing it. I'd had one cocktail, so I basically said, "Yeah, alright, fuck it, ok", and then set about putting together a show. Perhaps more decisions should be made after a cocktail, because that was a good one, and it set me up for a year of fun stuff. As I write this, I'm in the middle of the first day of a week of refresher rehearsals for this years Edinburgh show, and have started to experience the predictable anxiety dreams and flashes of excitement, bravado, and sheer off-the-cliff-edge panic that only a one man show can bring.

I remember getting massively lost on the way to the venue when I played the Wet Spot last year, and not only did I get lost again this year, but I got lost in the exact same way. I found myself standing on the side of a dual carriageway, suitcase in tow, realising that although this wasn't anywhere near where I wanted to go, I had been here before. I had learnt nothing.

At least this year my hotel was nice. Last year I stayed in the Leeds Etap. A hotel that has bunk beds. All Etap hotels seem to have bunk beds. I do not want to feel like I am staying in a young offenders institution. Maybe that's just me.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Away and home

Off to Brighton for a delightful couple of days recharging in celebration of Lesley's birthday. There was fine eating, there was walking up and down by the sea, there was falling asleep on the beach and having momentary panics about the possibility of being sunburnt. Mostly, it has to be said, there was eating. My god we had some good food. At one restaurant I had two main courses in the time it took my lovely wife to finish off one. Win.

Then back and hitting the ground running with a gorgeous night headlining a sold out Madame Jojos for Bete Noire. Really strong line-up - Matt Hennem, Beatrix Von Bourbon and Luna Rosa, all tied together by host Ophelia Bitz. And the crowd were up for it - simmering on the boil, just the fun side of rowdy. Exactly how I like 'em.

So, we're all getting ready in the tiny little dressing room at Jojos. Out of the blue, Von Bourbon lets out a little "meep" and announces that she's going to have problems doing her balloon popping act in the second half as she has forgotten to bring balloons. This could be a problem - the shops around Soho that might sell balloons will be closed by now - maybe it'll have to be condoms. Or perhaps we could get some free balloons from Burger King. Von Bourbon's eyes light up at this. "Burger King! Burger King! It's political. It'll be magical!". She's right, of course, but since I'm doing nothing until the end of the show, I'm the schmuck that has to go out and either blag balloons from Burger King, or go to Boots and buy 26 of the cheapest condoms they sell. Either way, it ain't classy.

Luckily, once I'm up the stairs and into Soho, I see the solution - Yo Sushi have a couple of balloons hanging outside - they're branded with a little pink heart. Perfect. I go in and find a staff member.

"Hi, I've got kinda a strange question.."
"Go on..."
"I'm working in a venue around the corner and we need balloons for the show, but we've run out...I don't suppose there's any chance.."
"Sure, I can give you some balloons. How many do you need?"

"26? What are they for?"
"A naked girl"
"ahhhhhhhh. I see."

So, thanks to the nice lady in Yo Sushi, all was well.

Like I said, it was a lovely show - afterwards we hung out in the bar for a little while, and a couple of friendly ladies sidled up to us. After saying how much they'd enjoyed the show, one of them pointed at me and said "Where do I know you from?". I said I didn't know, maybe from shows like these? "Have you ever been on TV", she said. Now, there's no way to answer this without sounding like at least a bit of a douchebag, so I said yes, I had been on TV, including a couple of things that get repeated quite a lot, so maybe she'd seen me there. She seemed impressed by this, pondered for a moment, and then said "So, if I slept with you could I sell my story for some money?"


"No", I said.

"Not even a bit of money?", she replied.

"No", I said, "Certainly not enough money to warrant sleeping with me"

And I went and hid in the dressing room.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Hanging out with the cool kids

Just come to the end of an brilliantly busy week. As I typed that, I accidentally typed "busty" instead of "busy", which would, of course, also be true since all my gigs this week were on the burlesque side of variety. It would be churlish and ungrateful, as a freelance performer, to whinge about being busy, but sometimes we're all guilty of it - it's only natural - but this week was un-whingeable. All the shows were lovely, and they were all with great people - most I already knew but some I was meeting for the first time.


Couple of quick spots at Proud Cabaret including my hat and cane routine, for which I was recently lampooned for not having a more creative title for than "The hat and cane routine". This is pretty much the only thing I do that isn't supposed to be funny. A few years ago I wanted to develop something that was different to my usual schtick, so I took a couple of months off and started playing with a single hat and a single cane to see if I could make something cool. That was the point, to make something that made me look cool - and that's something that is wayyy out of my comfort zone. It took a while, and until quite recently I always felt nervous about performing it. A technically difficult routine from a juggling perspective combined with the risk of people laughing at a man trying to be cool always gave me butterflies, but recently it's found it's rhythm and now I love doing it. I'm relaxed enough with the skills half to be able to concentrate and enjoy the performing element, and when it goes right, I do feel cool.


To the Royal Horticultural Halls for a corporate gig. A few little cigar box spots to a nice audience in a beautiful venue, which seemed familiar to me for some reason although it took me a while to work out why. It's the same hall that my mum used to take me to when I was a kid, to go to the early home computer exhibitions. She'd try not to get too bored out of her skull, while the 11 year-old me would visit every stall, chat nervously to the bedroom videogame writers, buy their games on tape (at exhibition discounted prices!) and have my head filled with ideas for my own games that I'd go home and write. Nice for this geek to revisit that.

People bitch about doing corporate gigs, and sure, sometimes they can be soul-destroyingly awful, but this was perfectly nice. And I can't be too down on an evening that allowed me to watch killer chanteuse Kitty La Roar in a slinky gold lame dress squirming about on top of a white grand piano that floated on a cloud of dry ice while a tap dancer hoofed to the song she was singing. Niiice.


My second appearance at Time Out's Friday Night Freakshow at The Udderbelly. A fun late night bill of some of the more notorious UK Cabaret monkeys, hosted by Miss Behave, who alternated her costume tonight between her usual bespoke latex and a plush all in one mouse suit. I wasn't massively happy with my work in the previous months Freakshow - it was ok, but I felt I was a bit lacklustre, but tonight I knocked it out of the park - receptive audience, a few nice little improvy bits and for some reason I said "Penis" which made me giggle afterwards.

I got a text from Miss Behave at 3.50am that night that read "Am at airport departure lounge wearing mouse suit. Love Mouse behave"


Piling into Beatrix Von Bourbon's little green car with Honey Wilde and bombing down to Chelmsford for the Fling Festival. Great crowds in the cabaret tent who were up for it from the first show, and enough time between slots for the cast to descend en-masse on, respectively, the ice cream van, and then the curry stall/Bollywood dance workshop. Those Chelmsfordians got a good show, with the batshit Moonfish Rhumba, excellent Lydia Darling and force of nature Khandie Khisses, who danced until she literally bled, but rarely lost the big daffy grin from her face (see bunny-based portrait above).


Off to the Derngate theatre in Northampton in a show hosted by Kiki Kaboom, who is basically prozac in a ballgown. Another stacked bill, and another chance to hang out with some friends and make some new ones. I'd heard nothing but good things about Fancy Chance, and had wanted to see her work for a while, but although we work most of the same venues, we had so far managed somehow to not ever be on the same bill on the same night. That was rectified tonight though, and boy was it worth the wait. What kind of comedy act parodies Prince in their first spot, and the whole of North Korea in their second? A damn good one, obviously.

Everyone, when they're at school, wants to hang with the cool kids. Most people - myself certainly included - didn't. And those that do, usually find out that the cool kids really ain't that cool anyway. I think these days I get to hang out with the cool kids quite a lot, and you know what? They are pretty cool. And smart, and funny, and sweet. And dressed as mice. Or bunnies. Or Prince.