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Saturday, 28 May 2011

Stuart Goldsmith shoot

Quick shoot for Stuart Goldsmiths new website. Stu was a street performer for a while, and got by on charm and charisma, where most others used chainsaws and high unicycles. Now he's a rapidly-getting-successful stand-up, and gets by using the same tools, plus very good material.

All reasons to dislike him intently, but, annoyingly, he's a sweetheart.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Dispatches from the frontline of mid-level showbusiness

Had a mainly delightful bunch of gigs this week, and thanks to a new camera bag, actually managed to shoot some stuff while I was hanging around in various venues waiting to do them.

I say mainly delightful, because one of them was marred by a very loud and completely hammered table of women. Nothing new there. Par for the course. All part of the job. Their drunken catterwalling affected all the acts on the bill negatively, and I figured pretty early on that I'd get the brunt of it, as I was the most talky act - no music to act as a buffer between me and the sauced up trouts means I'm the easiest target.

And it was unpleasant. On rare occasions heckling can be fun, if it's done with no malice, but some wit, but if you've just been drinking all day with your friends, and are under the impression that your purchase of a ticket means you now own the night for everyone, then it's just dull.

I think I handled it averagely. When one table is spoiling the show for everyone else, all the other tables kinda look to you - as the person on stage being shouted at - to solve the problem, and short of having them thrown out, or taking the time to individually put them to sleep with rear naked choke holds, there's little to be done. Funny put downs won't work because they're not listening. It's just a case of steaming through it and skulling a beer in the dressing room afterwards, which is what I did.

I'm lucky that this doesn't happen very often. Honestly, I can't remember the last time it did. I'm in the very fortunate position that I tend to only play clubs that I like, and therefore those are usually clubs that like me, so everyone has fun. Like I said, I really can't remember the last time I had a bad night at a club, but I remember the first time like it was yesterday.

Bearcat club, Twickenham. Last 80's. I was down for an open spot. I was playing with a geeky, nervous onstage character at the time - the joke being I'd be juggling fire and stuff, but be all nerdy. I walked on stage and the first couple of rows of rugby twats in the audience didn't get that it was a character, and thought I was actually as nervous as I was acting (When in fact, I was only slightly less nervous..). They started chanting "Scared", which initially confused me, but the confusion vanished when they started storming the stage, grabbing my props, returning to their places in the audience and throwing my own props at me. Hard.

Sounds funny now, and indeed it is, but my central memory of it is sitting on Twickenham station in tears convinced that I had made the most monumental mistake in convincing myself that I could ever make a living out of being on stage.

Such strength does this sense memory hold, that even now, 25 years later, when I have a moderately dodgy gig, I'm snapped back to that night like Sam Beckett. Unpleasant, but as a couple of smart people have said to me recently, the sensitivity that makes bad nights hurt is the same stuff that lets me write and perform well, so you take the cons with the pros.

Also this week I got a call from an ITV show who expressed an interest in having me in their Christmas day special. Those of you who have seen "Three Balls and a Good Suit" will know my feelings on shiny floored light entertainment slaughterhouses, and although this wasn't a talent show, it was still resolutely mainstream. Presented by Bradley Walsh, no less, who even gets a namecheck in "3 Balls.."

They seemed keen to have me, and although I've done enough TV to have no excitement about it whatsoever, it would mean a few more twitter and facebook friends who might be interested in my real work, so I thought what the hell. The production company said they were very excited that I'd like to be involved and that someone from the contracts dept. would be in touch that day to sort out the details. They also gave me two dates in the coming week to keep free, one for a rehearsal and one for the taping.

Over the next week nobody called, and when I called them to try to talk contracts, they seemed suprised that it would be an issue. Slowly it dawned on me that they expected me to be so excited about the spectacular opportunity they were granting me, that my fee wouldn't be important. Not so. On one occasion, the researcher that I spoke to explained that she hadn't called me because she is currently in studio and unable to make phone calls. She told me this on the phone from the studio, where I had called her.

I increasingly got the feeling that they were souring on me, so it was no suprise when I finally was told that I wasn't needed. "I guess you didn't get the email I sent you..". Hmm.

Throughout the whole thing I felt hugely, incredibly, spectacularly ambivalent. ITV 1 is not a place I harbour any excitment about going back to, but a gig is a gig. I won't cry over it though - I once got dumped from both "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "The Late Show with David Letterman" in the same week. Bradley Walsh needs to go some to compete with that pedigree.

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

Friday, 13 May 2011

Better to be busy than not

Things have got crazy busy. I'm not complaining - I'd rather have too much to do then not enough. There was a point last week when in the course of 24 hours, I'd shot and processed three different photoshoots, conducted an interview and done a show. Got to the point where I was totally unaware if anything I'd done was any good, so hard had I been focussing on just getting all of it done. Luckily one of the shoots produced the pic above, for the batshit crazy Bluestockings night, which people seem to like, so phew.

The next couple of weeks get - if anything - more hectic. I'm off to Belgium for a one night gig on Sunday, then have pretty much something every night next week, which will culminate in a technical rehearsal for a telly thing that I will be allowed to tell you about in a couple of weeks. Relax, it's not exciting, it's ITV.

Then there's the stuff that the professional side of my brain says I should tell you about, namely, that tickets have gone on sale for my 2011 Edinburgh festival show -"MAT RICARDO: THREE BALLS AND A NEW SUIT".

I'm delighted to have my show produced by Blond Ambition & O'Connor Ents, and I'm really looking forward to getting back into it, and into the associated nutso world of the Edinburgh festival.

It's largely the same show as last year with the following differences:

(1) 12% new material, mainly about Britain's Got Talent
(2) At least one new trick
(3) An actual new suit
(4) The venue is better, and gorgeous
(5) Hardly anyone actually saw it last year, so shut up

You can buy tickets here
There's a gorgeous little preview write-up that made me all teary, here
And there's a facebook group thing here

Please come, obviously.

I know I'm whinging about the busyness, but really, seriously, I couldn't be happier. Right now things seem to be dropping into place better than they ever have before, and this brings with it terror and fear and self-questioning, but also happiness and progress and creation. So, basically what I'm saying is, Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Well that was an interesting night

Lovely show for Bete Noire at Madame JoJo's, on a stacked bill consisting of Ophelia Bitz, Tempest Rose, Holly Penfield and me. Great crowd and top-class backstage gossiping. By the way: Bitz + Rose = the dream team of snark. Fact.

Then off I trundled to catch my train back to deepest South London. All goes fine until halfway between Waterloo East and London Bridge. The train stops. All the lights go out. And we wait there, unmoving. For the best part of an hour. Every so often a driver or guard hurries up the train looking increasingly fraught, soon joined by people in high visibility vests with flashlights wandering around outside on the tracks. It becomes apparent that there is perhaps more to this than a simple technical failiure.

And there is. Someone - we can only presume a drunk someone - decided that rather than wait for the next connecting train from Waterloo East to London Bridge, they would just walk off the end of the platform, along the trackside, and get there on foot. Horrifically and predictably, our train struck them.

And there we sit, for another hour at least, pushed hard into the bad seating with the cold realisation that those men with the flashlights outside are poking around in the undercarriage directly beneath us in search of signs of life. I'm trying to regulate my breathing as the reason for the driver's fraught expression is tragically clear. He makes the occasional announcement, his voice noticeably shaking and weak.

I sit in silence, in forced contemplation, staring deliberately at nothing. As does the woman sat in front of me. Blank faces with a little less colour than usual. Natural. But others are not the same, it seems. The guy sat accross the aisle from me plays his music loudly, drums on the seat back, whistles, sings along to his ipod. He takes a phone call "Yo", he shouts, "No, I'm still stuck on this fucking train. Probably someone's had a heart attack or topped themselves. Fuck. I've had a 12 hour shift. I wanna go home". I had him pegged as a twat from the moment I sat down, but this takes swaggering douchbaggery to a new level. For an hour at least he is like this, drumming, playing music, sighing loudly, talking to himself. I work hard to not grind my teeth.

After about two hours, an announcement - we're all to gather at the rear of the train where we'll get off and walk back along the track to Waterloo East. As we get to our feet, he starts swearing at the announcement. The woman who was sitting in front of me leans in and says, firmly, "Someone's died". This stops him in his tracks. I take the chance to back her up, and add "Which means, you're not the most important thing here, so chill". He shuts up. The woman looks at me, "Been wanting to say that for hours!", she says. "Innit", I reply. I've found a friend.

We walk along the bumpy dark track together, introduce ourselves, discover that we live closeby each other and should thus share a taxi home. Bethann works on lighting at Phantom Of The Opera and is, like pretty much every female theatre tech I've ever worked with, small, blonde, tough-looking and great. As we track-walk, she admits that this is something she's always secretly wanted to do. She's right - it's a chance to look at a part of London from a slightly unique perspective - similar to the way you see it every day, but not quite. Shame it has to be in these circumstances though. Unpleasant privilege.

People are still complaining, trying to question the simple instructions given by the police on the scene. Like they know better. Like they've done this before. At one point, for whatever good it does, I say "I think it's important to remember that we're the least important people here".

Finally we're out of the station and we get our taxi. We depressurise during the journey, chatting about how best to enhance West End shows (Our solution: Ninjas) and confirming with each other our suspicion that we were the only decent people on the whole train. Then, as the taxi pulls up outside my house, he hits the kerb and blows a tire. We look at each other with disbelieving frozen grins. We're cursed. Bethann gets another taxi and I go home.

Tonight started great and ended ok, but jesus, there was some horrid stuff in the middle.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Spaceman George

Press image photoshoot with George Fuller - a clown, acrobat and slack-rope walker. Originally from Chicago, he's been a solid part of the UK scene for years now, having just finished up a season with No Fit State Circus. I first met him through the street performing circuit, and in a world populated mainly by brash showmen, George's stuff struck me as being lovely - gentle, whimsical and sweet.

His latest project involves a man so lonely and disillusioned with people in general that he decides the only reasonable option is to build a rocketship and a spacesuit and go live on the moon. (You can see a little video of some of this show here) - something we can all sometimes relate to, no?

The look of his costume and props is kinda deliberately homebrew-y and steampunk-y so I thought the look of these images - muddied up, grainy and faded - suited the character and show - almost like they were tattered pictures found in the back of an antique cupboard inherited from a great-grandmother, odd and unexplainable.

Also - who knew putting a flashgun inside the helmet would work so perfectly?