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Friday, 23 March 2012


So. I got a text message from a dragon, who wanted to know if I'd like to come and play at the Magic Circle on Monday. Even though I've been involved in variety for, oh, about 75 years now, I'd never actually been to the magic circle. I occasionally play magic conventions, where I joke about what a mistake it was for them to allow a juggler into their secret world. Jugglers, I claim, are the sworn enemies of the magician. But I like a good magician as much as a good anything else, and - as the phrase goes - many of my best friends are magicians, so yes, I wanted to go.

If I'm being completely honest, part of the reason for me going might have been a sickeningly ironic exploration into a place I had many pre-conceived ideas about. Much as I try to stay sincere in these matters, it's all too easy to think that the magic circle might just be a sad place, full of tubby men in cheap suits boring each other with card tricks. There was, and it pains me to say this, a certain morbid curiosity.

It didn't last long though. It's exactly what it should be. A heavy anonymous door, with a cryptic design on the front, leads you into somewhere quite special. My friends Maria and Amelie showed me around, and quickly I realised that this was my kind of place. Upstairs, we strolled around the museum, glass cases full of real treasures - Houdini's handcuffs, Chung Ling Soo's robes, Prince Charles' cups and balls set, whole shelves full of different designs of bang flag guns! - and then things got emotional - Tommy Coopers' bottles and glasses. Stuff from David Nixon and Paul Daniels. gems from my childhood in glass cases, before my very eyes. Lump in my throat.

This is a place where the history of my artform (or at least an artform very closely related to mine) is recorded, respected, loved and celebrated. And not just in glass cases. Downstairs in the bar, grey haired magicians, some of them in their 90's, chat to young starry eyed conjurers - wisdom being imparted from wizards. Go up one flight of stairs and there's a fully equipped theatre, where there are regular shows. This is a museum, a social club, a university and an inspiration. People from all walks of life glorying in their love of a shared craft. I loved it, and yes, I'm seriously considering joining - if they have jugglers (we are, after all, the sworn enemy..). I like talking to old men about variety, and this looks like the motherlode.

I performed in the magic circle theatre that night. A couple of magician friends had warned me on twitter that the audience there could be a bit odd, and I can see what they meant, but they were lovely. Occasionally they chose to laugh at things audiences dont usually laugh at, and not at things that audiences do usually laugh at, but on the whole, I had fun. Also I was very proud of a gag I wrote that is only suitable for shows at the magic circle. Something about elephants.

Afterwards I hung out in the bar, caught up with a few magician friends, and got introduced to the awesome and elegant Gay Blackstone - widow of the great American illusionist Harry Blackstone Jr, and genuine magic royalty. "I'm Gay Blackstone", she said as she took my hand, "from the Magic Castle.." - which, as an introduction, you gotta love. She was very complimentary about my work, so I was left with a silly grin on my face and more determined that I might want to be in this secret club.

I wrote a column for Time Out a couple of weeks ago, which, if you missed it, you can see above - click the image to see it bigger, or read it online here. I'd dreamt of writing something for Time Out since my late teens, so this was pretty cool for me. Hope you like.

The next Mat Ricardo's London Varieties will take place on April the 12th, and it's going to be a cracker. The Boy With Tape On His Face, Morgan & West, Paul Dabek, Lenny Beige, a whole new routine from me, and TAP DANCING! The last one sold out, so be sure to get your tickets now!

Also, I'll be doing my one man show "Three Balls and a new Suit" at the Brighton Fringe on the 7th and 17th of May - it'll be the last time I do this show for a while, so if you haven't seen it and want to, click here.


Monday, 19 March 2012

More London Varieties news...

So.. last months Mat Ricardo's London Varieties was a sell-out, and fun from top to bottom. I even nailed the trick that I had set myself the challenge of learning. I ended up at home in the early hours with bagels and cheesecake from the all-night bagel place on Brick Lane, exhausted but with a daffy grin on my face. If you came - thanks so much.

Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen - especially Frisky & Mannish, Arron Sparks, Luke Jermay, and of course the delightful Graham Linehan. Big props also to Team Ricardo - that's Kirsty at Soundswilde who does amazing work producing the podcast and teching the live show, and also of course Rhian and ReeRee.

Thanks to the great people at the British Comedy Guide, the podcast is now up and available to download here. If you like it, please go to iTunes and leave a positive review - it only takes a few seconds but it makes a massive difference.

And of course, if you liked the podcast, you're going to want to come and see the live show. Talking of which...

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties April 12th show



One of the world's most successful, hilarious and astonishing silent performers, The Boy, has - in a few short years - gone from street performing to fringe acclaim and on to a performance on the Royal Variety Show.
One of the most in-demand cabaret acts in the country, we're thrilled to welcome him to the London Varieties.



Fresh from hit runs at the Edinburgh fringe and the Adalaide Cabaret festival, Morgan & West - the time travelling magicians - are on a hot streak. Last year they also became part of the select group of magicians who appeared on "Fool Us with Penn & Teller" and - yes - fooled them!


The critically acclaimed illusionist is going to bring something very special to the varieties.
He'll be performing his celebrated Shadowgraphy act. A recreation of a captivating and almost-lost artform.


The entertainers entertainer!
The man who puts the lady in Palladium!
The king of light entertainment!

 Lenny will be rocking the room with some hits and then sitting down with me for a chat about a lifetime spent delivering premium quality, jewel-encrusted, high-kicking entertainment.


But that's not all..
There will be more archive footage
more surprises

See you on the 12th of April
Doors 7pm, Show 8pm, Tickets just £10

Monday, 5 March 2012

Just at the point of losing control

Once, many years ago, when I was younger and more prone to public foolhardiness, I learned to rollerblade. One of the online resources that helped me learn had a quote that I often think of. "The perfect way to rollerblade", it said, "is to feel that you're continually just at the point of losing control, but you don't". I think that can perhaps be applied to virtually everything, and it's certainly how I feel at the moment.

Last months London Varieties was big fun, but this months is going to be insane. Some of my favourite acts will be there, I'm doing some new stuff, and I have to get my shit together and not make a fool of myself when I interview one of my comedy heroes. Eeep. It's also the time of year when I start to get serious with plans for the Edinburgh festival. I'll be doing an evolved version of my one man show there, and..a couple of other things.. It's all a bit scary and exciting. Put that all together with the actual job of bouncing from club to gig to club to earn a crust, and sometimes I feel that I'm at the point of losing control. But so far I haven't.

Bearing all that in mind, then, it was nice to find the time to shoot a quick portrait of ex-street performer, clown, great hat juggler and comedian Andre Vincent. If you listened to last months varieties podcast (and if you didn't, then you are dead to me) then you will have heard Andre talk very entertainingly about his years as a street performer. The portrait at the top of the page is your chance to put a face to those words.

This week also saw me doing a corporate gig for a bank in Bradford. Contrary to what you might be assuming - and to what I might have assumed - it was actually a fun gig. I don't do any real street performing any more, so it's always a nice trip to the gym to be doing some street shows in the middle of a cold shopping street to unsuspecting people. In the opening minutes of my first show, as I was chatting to the handful of people I had convinced to watch, a dodgy-looking bloke half-walked and half-ran through the show, pursued by two policemen who caught him, slammed him into a shop doorway and proceeded to look through his bags and then cuff him. I don't like to blow my own trumped, but I think it's a good sign that both policemen and the shoplifting suspect watched my show right to the end, before going off to complete their arrest!

The rest of my week was spent doing some lovely burlesque shows, and spending a fun Sunday at a Japanese culture show at Earls Court. Photographic proof of both these claims, below.

I'm also very happy to announce that I'll be doing a couple of dates of my one man show "Mat Ricardo: Three Balls and a New Suit" at the Brighton Komedia, as part of the Brighton Festival. Dates for this show are the 7th and the 17th of May, and you can get tickets here. The good news for you is that it's a show I'm very proud of, it got great reviews and won me the Herald Angel Award for theatre. The bad news for me, is that I have to learn it all again.

If you haven't subscribed to the London Varieties podcast, then do! We've got some great shows on their way there soon, plus some extra special bonus podcast-only interviews. Also - if you submit and review and give us a star rating, then it really helps the iTunes rankings. I thank you in advance.