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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Collected reviews of the London run of "MAT RICARDO: THREE BALLS AND A GOOD SUIT"

Quick collection of the reviews for my March 2011 London run.

"There aren't many jugglers around who'd warrant a whole show of their own but Mat Ricardo is a bit special. With technical skills out the wazoo, Ricardo can make you gasp - but more than that, he's got wit, charm and genuine personal engagement. Catch him."
Critics Choice Time Out London

"Audiences have learned to see juggling as a peripheral circus attraction – the fringe of the fringe, the crud of cabaret, the side of the sideshow. It takes more than dexterity to bring this timeless art to the forefront. It takes dazzling showmanship, spot-on comic timing and bucket loads of style. It takes Mat Ricardo.

The self-styled “gentleman juggler” has revised and updated his five-star one-man-act Fringe hit into a relentless hour of hilarious, jaw-dropping fun. Ricardo both revives and revamps the all-but-forgotten music hall genre of gentleman jugglers, the turn-of-the-century vaudevillians who set themselves apart from their gaudy circus counterparts by dressing up and using goblets, bottles and other assorted bar paraphernalia as props.

Like magic, fire-eating or any other physical stunt, juggling is seldom about the acrobatic feats. It’s how you dress it that makes the act seductive, and Three Balls and a Good Suit fully excels in that respect. Ricardo’s smooth wit drives the show at full speed, teasing the audience with swift anecdotes of a two-decade career spanning from street performances in Covent Garden to transatlantic cruise gigs. If you’ve ever wondered how jugglers get their death-defying arsenals past airport security checks, what upgrades the Internet has introduced to the art of heckling or why jugglers have never won Britain’s Got Talent, you’ll be both amused and outraged by the answers.

The actual tricks are as stunning for their mastery as for their ingenious conception. The only number with a soundtrack in the show (a nimble routine whose intimate subtlety “wouldn’t last five minutes on the streets”) sees Ricardo launching into an effortless, mesmerizing dance with a walking stick, his hat and an oversized cartoonish cigar to the suave crooner jazz of Tom Waits’s New Coat of Paint. Other times, the artist masterfully builds up the crowd’s anticipation with comic faux-blunders, as in the juggling-stripping routine where he proves taking off your coat can be more difficult than keeping three balls in the air. One of the most inventive gags of the show features Ricardo simulating a hidden magnet at the base of metal trays and kettles, playing on audience expectations with teasing simplicity. The spirited inversion is pure post-modern prestidigitation.

The show’s climax couldn’t possibly be other than his already classic cigar box-balancing act, where Ricardo defies gravity (“effectively overwrites it” would be more accurate) by piling up a glass of wine and said boxes on his trademark fat cigar. The mindboggling stunt is a feat of no less than perfect symmetry, of the sort that makes the impossible look easy, and has become a common fixture in cabaret bills throughout London. Combining straightforward, no-frills mechanics with his insouciant presentation, the number is a surefire popular favorite, eliciting uproarious applause with every performance.

Some of Ricardo’s autobiographical soliloquies attempt to provide a dramatic counterpoint to his otherwise uninterrupted acerbic frolicking, labouring on his difficult choices when balancing an essentially itinerant trade with family life. Those, however, are neither lengthy nor developed enough to produce striking poignancy. A much more moving pathos arises from his heartfelt defense of street theatre as the most honest art form he knows (“an international industry of self-employed, taxpaying professionals”). Defending with unregretful nostalgia the merciless arena where he made his bones, the vaudevillian draws upon his own experiences as well as the biography of past greats of the genre like W.C. Fields or the legendary Enrico Rastelli, arguably the only juggler to ever have been honoured with a public statue and a Vanity Fair obituary.

You’ll struggle to find an hour more tightly packed with cunning humour and spellbinding amusement. Three Balls and a Good Suit is more fun than most comedy shows, and certainly smells better than any circus I’ve been to. Mat Ricardo reportedly aims to show audiences something they’ve never seen before, but what does he know – this concise tour de force in spectacle is irrefutably best suited for repeated viewing."

Erotic Review Magazine

"Mat Ricardo is a world-class gentleman juggler. He has performed on three continents, he has headlined variety shows and he spent a month hanging out in Tokyo with the man who played Monkey in Monkey.

For a few nights at the Etcetera Theatre, Ricardo is presenting his one-man show, Three Balls And A Good Suit (Tales From The Life Of A Jaded Novelty Act). He starts by taking us back to his schooldays in Enfield where, given the career choice of being a social worker or an undertaker, Ricardo went with a third option: busking. He describes the life of a busker, seeing it an amazing business model which shouldn’t work but it does; if it was pitched on Dragon’s Den, “they would literally be queuing up to punch you in the cock.”

There’s no doubting Ricardo’s talent as a juggler or a comedian. Like famed juggler Enrico Rastelli, Ricardo concentrates his well-honed skills on only a few props – balls, cigar boxes, throwing knives – but conjures some fantastic entertainment from them. If you think this is hyperbole, consider this -every year, Britain’s Got Talent writes to him inviting him on and every year he declines gracefully: “I have no desire to be fodder in your shiny-floored light entertainment slaughterhouse.”

Even when a trick goes slightly wrong, Ricardo covers with a ready gag and a smile – damn it, this man is more likeable than an unexpected lottery win. And that’s his forte: whether he is describing sexual escapades on a cruise ship, the ultimate heckle or a case of mistaken identity with a Department of Homeland Security officer, he carries us with him as assuredly as any stand-up we’ve seen. Through this show, Ricardo wants to be able to give up the variety shows, the cruise ships and the travel and spend more time with his wife, his home and his cat. We wish him all the best with that."

The Londonist

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