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Friday, 25 November 2011

Nearly overwhelmed

I've been really busy recently, and will continue to be for a while. I'm not complaining - better to be too busy than not busy enough, as I always say. But when you're a freelancer, the success of being in demand can be slightly offset by the sheer amount of stuff to do. It's easy to feel overwhelmed with to-do lists, and to forget the simple joy of being able to make a living doing something inherently silly, that people seem to want to pay you for. So it's good, occasionally, to do something that will clear the head and put everything in perspective. With that in mind, I spent a pleasantly emotional day walking around my childhood neighbourhood.

I wandered about a bit in the shopping centre where my mum would take me to have a cup of tea in the Co-op cafe with my grandma a couple of times a week. When I was a kid, the Co-op was the biggest supermarket I'd been to and I remember vividly having a dream in which there was a secret staircase at the back of the shop that lead up to the second floor where there was a massive fairground. It's a Tesco now, and there's still no fairground. I went upstairs to check.

Walking around a place you haven't been to for nearly twenty years is a bit like wearing a pair of magic time-bending x-ray glasses. I look at the big peacocks shop, but with my special glasses I can see through it to decades ago where it was Boots - the first place I ever saw security cameras. The big shiny black orbs hanging from the ceiling with cameras inside. I remember asking my dad what they were. Then turning around, and there's a tiny unused shop unit, with the windows painted out and the door boarded over. But through my magic glasses I can see that it used to be the place my grandma would sometimes buy me a 99 flake. And the video game arcade upstairs above the fruit and veg market. Long gone. I was told never to go there because it was full of dodgy characters. It was, but I still went. They had Phoenix, which I was, and am still, pretty good at. In it's place now stands a training and education centre. It always was that to me.

And then I found myself standing in front of my childhood home, and right outside was the old battered green telephone exchange box you see at the top of this post. When I was a kid, that was a lot of things to me. It was my horse when I was a cowboy, a motorcycle when I got bored of being a cowboy. It was a car, a castle to defend, and sometimes just a place to sit to be taller than the grown-ups. Strange how mundane things like that can prove to be the most powerful hooks into old memories.

The rest of week has been, as I said, busy, but completely delightful. I'm very pleased to have been taken on as a writer/photographer for online magazine The Void. My first piece, and interview and photo shoot with Beatrix Von Bourbon can be found here. Hope you like it. I plan to do a few more similar pieces in the future. Let me know what you think.

Also had a great shoot with Ginger Blush. We didn't use the black and white portrait above, but I quite like it. If you're unfamiliar, both Beatrix and Ginger are excellent burlesque performers and well worth checking out if they come to a show near you.

I shot the image below as part of the re-branding of the Bete Noire night at Madame Jojos, and due to some complications, the only place you'll see it in this form is here. The other shot below is a quick and dirty little portrait of Jake, the brains behind Bete Noire, and a lovely fellow.

Remember that advert that I infected your televisions with recently? Well apparently people have been getting in touch with the company with theories about how they faked it, so they made this brilliant little film to explain that it was real, and that the only things I fucked up were my lines..


I'd like to stress that the hair, glasses and awful, awful costume were very fake. As was, truthfully, the iPad. They didn't trust me not to steal it. Probably a smart move on their part.

Also this week I played the saw on stage as part of a band at the RR club. We played a Tom Waits song. It was great. That's another thing crossed off the teenage fantasy list.

Finally here's something that happened yesterday. Knock at the front door, I answer it and it's the postman with a package (my new tap shoes, in fact). He looks at me sideways, then says "You're that bloke of the telly aint'cha?", "Well", I say, "I am *a* bloke off the telly...", "Thought it was you", says the postman, "You're not the only celebrity living on this street, y'know..", Before I had time to mention that I'm not a celebrity, I'm a juggler, and the two are very much mutually exclusive he carried on, and told me about three famous people who live on my street. The first two, I won't tell you about, since they are quite famous and it might be a bit of an intrusion, but the third name he mentioned? Too good not to share. Blakey from "On The Buses". Awesome.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Big Reveal

Well, I've been keeping this under my hat for long enough, so it's time to make it official..

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties will bring the finest performers from the last few decades of cabaret, comedy, variety and light entertainment to the Bethnal Green Workingmen's Club, for a series of unique and very special one off shows. This is not just another cabaret night.

Every bill will be made up of the cream of the current comedy and cabaret world, and each month we'll have a very special headliner. Maybe someone from the dangerous early days of alternative comedy, maybe someone from the glory days of variety, maybe someone you and your family sat down to watch on TV when you were a kid..

Line-ups will be revealed a little closer to the first night, but we have some stunning names confirmed. I'm stupidly excited.

But there's more. The first half will be an astonishing variety line-up, the second half will see the headline act take to the stage and do their thing. Then the headliner will sit down with me to be interviewed about their life and career, live on stage. We'll take questions from twitter, and of course from the audience.

And we're going to record the whole thing and release it as a podcast for iTunes!

There's going to be a bunch of extra stuff, special guests and surprises on top of all of that, but hopefully by now you get the gist. To be among the first to hear who's going to be on the first night bill, be sure to follow me on Twitter, and friend me on Facebook.

I'm very proud to be working with the British Comedy Guide, and SoundsWilde on this exciting project.

This has been a bit of a dream idea for me for a couple of years now, and I'm so glad it's finally going to happen. The up and coming generation of variety and comedy on the same bill with some of the stars who influenced them. Like I said, this is not just another cabaret night!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

New Coat Of Paint

Thought I'd post a quick bit of video of "New Coat of Paint", my hat & cane routine, as it was performed at Proud Cabaret recently. I started putting the routine together years ago - I saved a bit of money and took a month off to see what I could come up with. My only rule was "no funny". Pretty much everything else I do on stage has an element of humour to it, so I thought it would be an interesting exercise to create a routine that wasn't intended to be funny. Even worse, it was intended to be cool. I've never thought of myself as remotely cool, so this was realllly outside of my comfort zone.

It's a middling routine, skills-wise, but it's the one I'm usually most nervous about performing. With any of my other bits, I can always cover a fumble or a drop with a good line, but this one has no escape routes, no getout clauses. Everything has to work, and it has to work first time, on the right musical cues.

And it sometimes doesn't.

But.. When it goes right. When all the tricks feel easy and fluid and correct. I do feel cool. Sometimes I even feel a little bit like a dancer. Just for a moment.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The contract a performer has with their audience

 A great night at the sold out Rhodes Theatre, Bishop's Stortford performing in "Missy Malone's Burlesque Revue". It's always fun being the only man on a bill full of ladies, but especially so when the bill is stacked with so much good stuff as it was tonight. Vicky Butterfly, Cherry Shakewell, The Bees Knees all held together by the awesome Laurie Hagen, and headlined, of course, by Miss Malone herself. It was a lovely show - one of those that seems easy to do, everything just slides together and works the way it should. I left the theatre pretty soon after the final curtain to catch my train home, feeling content and placid. This did not last.

As I'm walking the ten minutes or so to the station, I begin to hear shouting - both male and female voices - from the other side of the road. "Oi! Fucking cane boy! Fucking juggler! Oi!". I'm not a fan of being addressed in the way Jeremy Kyle might talk to someone in sportswear who is not a sportsman, so I ignored it and kept walking. "Oi! Fucking juggler! It's fucking you!", and then, from the woman, "Oi! Cunt! I paid fifteen quid to see you. Fucking talk to me!"

I shook my head to myself, and went home. But just on the offchance that those delightful people googled me and have found themselves here, let's clear the air.

Yes, you paid fifteen pounds to see me. I, and Missy Malone, and all the cast, thank you for encouraging live performances in venues outside of London, and hope you had a hell of a night. Here's what that £15 gets you: A show. And that's what you got. You had a stage full of great performers, who delivered the best they could, for the audience you were part of. And that audience was lovely - warm, receptive, ready to laugh and whoop and whistle. Great. We all had a good time.

The contract you have with me, the contract that your hard-earned fifteen pounds buys you, ends the moment the final curtain touches the stage. Before that, when you're sitting in the dark and I'm on stage, I'm yours, I work for you, my only job is to entertain you. But when your lights come on and mine go out, the contract is completed. Sure, often we'll be in the bar after the show and we're more than happy to chat to you, and I've made real genuine friends this way. But, if I'm walking home, then I'm not a performer any more, I'm a guy going home from work, and if you start drunkenly yelling insults, you're not members of the audience any more, you're just twats. And the best you can hope for is to be ignored.

You want to talk to me? You want to say you liked my work, or even that you didn't? Fine - try "Excuse me", and lay off calling me a cunt. It's an odd thing, if you call someone a cunt, they usually take a bit of a dislike to you.

In considerably funner news, I discovered this week that I have been nominated for two London Cabaret Awards, which was a terrific surprise. I'm up for best speciality act, and best show (for "Three Balls and a New Suit"), and I'm fairly confident I'll win neither, as I'm up against some amazing people. It is, and I swear I don't mean this to sound as cliché as it does, genuinely an honour just to be nominated. However, if I don't at least make it into the final three, I shall hunt down the judging panel "Theatre of Blood" style.

Finally, if you have a hankering to come see me this week, here's where you can:

Thursday the 10th: Bete Noire at Madame JoJos, alongside Beatrix Von Bourbon, Lydia Darling, Missy Fatale and Ophelia Bitz - brilliant ladies all. That's the early show, by the way. I'm not in the late show.

Friday the 11th: La Reve at The Cafe De Paris. Dusty Limits, Piff, Pippa the Ripper, Beatrix Von B again, and me! And lots more! Great line up in one of the world's most beautiful cabaret venues.

Saturday the 12th: The Horne Section, at the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus. It's my third appearance in Alex Horne's wonderful show, and I've loved it since the first. If you haven't seen it, you really should. It's heartfelt, absurd, swiss-watch timed silliness. I'm on with Paul Foot, but the stars of the show are Alex and his brilliant band. 10.30pm start. My appearance in The Horne Section has been postponed. Sorry if you planned to come and see me in this - out of my control.

What a fun week it'll be. Two more things before I go: First, if you didn't click on the Jeremy Kyle link, go back up and do it now. Secondly..

Thursday, 3 November 2011

New iPhone + Proud cabaret = a bunch of quick & dirty cast portraits

I'm sorry Android. It's not you, it's me. Ok, it was kinda you. You were almost great, but had some major failings, and then they went and launched a new iphone, and at the same time my ipod died. From that point on, it was just a matter of time. We drifted apart, Android. You updated your OS, and installed a bunch of software I didn't want, and couldn't delete. That's no way to treat a friend. You had no personality of your own, always just trying to keep up with your cooler and more famous competitor, but just coming across like a wannabe knock off. Android, baby, bubbelah, you're Danni Minogue. You're Chris Penn. For fucks sake, you're Paul Ross.

Oh, and of course I had to test out the iPhone's camera, so here's some quick portraits of some of the people I'm working with this week at Proud Cabaret. This is the last week of my residency, but I'll still turn up every so often at the two Proud venues in the weeks leading up to Christmas, so if you're going and unlucky, you might catch me.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bad Bluestocking Debutantes

Very fun photoshoot for the Blue Stocking Society's next shindig, which has the theme "Bad Debutantes" and will take place at the wonderful Bethnal Green Workingmen's club on Wednesday 23rd November. (Facebook based info, here). Great line-up, most of which you can see in the images above. And yes, that's me in the group shot, which means I'll also be performing. And yes, I used a timer to get the photo.

The location for the photos was the frankly amazing Bow Arts Club, which is a batty and wonderful place. Home to artists, the principle seems to be to turn the whole place into a smorgasbord of art, created mainly by those who live and work there. It hangs on every wall, sits on every inch of floor space, dangles from the ceiling and totters on every flat surface. I sat down in an armchair and nearly got concussed by an installation involving a garden gnome pan-frying Lenin, while they both fall into a meat mincer.

One of our hosts greeted us at the door, and then promptly vanished, only to reappear minutes later with the explanation "Sorry, I had to change hats". This is how you win me over.

Also, don't forget...