Much as I occasionally whine about there not being much of a dedicated variety circuit for someone like me to ply my trade, the fact is I've worked hard to develop enough flexibility in my material so that I can work as wide a range of different styles and venues as possible. It's only smart. I might use cool music and throw around a hat & cane in a burlesque show, do stand-up punctuated with a few tricks in a comedy club, or something a little more theatrical if I'm working a bigger venue. I've long since learned the benefits of having a skillset that's applicable to as many gigs that might come my way as possible. Case in point? This past weekend.
On Thursday night I was part of a great line-up for the last ever Bete Noire at madame Jojos. Perfect example of a edgy soho cabaret night, was Bete Noire, and we were all very sad to see it go, although I'm sure the creators are already coming up with something to take it's place. "We've hit the iceberg, and we're goin' down", was how the great Ophelia Bitz (pictured below) opened the show, and boy did we go down with a fight. It was a hell of a night - emotional, raucous, and full of big laughs and loud applause. I had a ball, and so did everyone else. Highpoint for me? The brilliant magician Laura London naming her new performing goldfish Mat Ricardo (also pictured below!)
|Laurie Hagen, post crazyness|
Sadly I couldn't stay for the post show "going down with the ship" party, as I had to be on an early train the next day to work Friday and Saturday at the legendary Leeds City Varieties. Often you'll find shallow mid-level showbiz schmucks like me saying what an honour it is to be asked to do somesuch bollocks, but in this case it couldn't be truer. I've wanted to play this theatre for more than twenty years, and to be asked was something special. It's one of the very few surviving and still working Victorian music halls in the country, and it's beautiful. When you step on stage, you feel the footsteps of those who went before you. Who might they be? Morecambe and Wise, Les Dawson, Bruce Forsythe..want more? how about Charlie Chaplin? How about Houdini? In short, my heroes. I can't tell you how good it felt to be a variety artist performing at a real palace of variety.
Add to that the pleasure of sharing the bill with a bunch of old school variety acts who have been honing their acts for twice as long as I've been alive - headed up by the mighty Bernie Clifton, which means dressing rooms full of anecdotes - and what you have is a very contended Mat Ricardo. And I'm not talking about the fish.
I really enjoyed my spots in the show, and couldn't help thinking how the previous night I was at Jojo's being all sweary and ranty to a hot dark room full of young hipsters, and here I was playing to an audience of people who were mainly at least my parents age, in a big room full of red velvet and gold fittings - and not swearing so much - but using the same tools, just in a slightly different way. They might not know it, but these two audiences are not so different. Thanks to them both.
|Old theatre snacks, part of restoration display at Leeds City Varieties|
Also had time this week for a couple of studio shoots - one with The Boy With Tape On His Face, the resulting image from which you can see at the very top of this post, and one with my friends Leela and Matthew, who are more famous under different names, for their new Olympic-themed mullarkey-fest, which you can see below.
I was also very chuffed to read this review of last months Mat Ricardo's London Varieties. I couldn't be happier with how it's going - I keep meeting people who have either been to the live show or listened to the podcast, which kinda blows my mind.
Most of the rest of this week has been spent trying to learn the plate juggling challenge in time for the next show on May 12th. It's proving to be a bit of a journey, this one. The waistcoat trick last month was hard enough, and that was just one trick. This will be an entire choreographed routine. To music. Twenty tricks. Halp.
Please make it worth my while and book your tickets here. It's going to be an insanely good show - how often do you get performers who have played the Royal Variety Show, who have worked Las Vegas with Penn & Teller, and a genuine British cabaret Legend on the same bill? And don't forget, there'll also be tap dancing!