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Tuesday, 17 December 2013


On those fairly rare occasions when, for whatever reason, the universe lets a bunch of us variety monkeys use a West End theatre, it always feels a bit naughty. A bit like using the school projector to show cartoons in the lunchbreak when the teachers backs are turned. And just like cartoons on a school projector, it turns out that letting us into a big theatre is often the best possible use of the equipment..

So it was that I rolled up, hat & cane in hand, to the stage door to be a part of The Boy With Tape On His Face's big, one night only, Christmas variety show "Cornucopia". And bloody blimey was it fun.

Magic and comedy and dance and music and mime and juggling and all manner of slightly more indescribable stuff. "All the best acts", as the opening voiceover said, "who happen to be available on the 16th of december".. and all presented as live TV, channel surfed by The Boy himself, sitting on stage prodding at an oversized remote control.

It so worked. And not only that, the theatre was packed. On a Monday night. With people passionate about the idea of a variety show. These days, it seems to me totally obvious that variety is on its way back in a major way. The decline in ratings of those talent shows, coupled with the success of projects like my London Varieties, Cornucopia, Another Fucking Variety Show, and the myriad smaller variety nights that are starting to crop up all over the country, does the heart proud.

Also I got to sit in a box next to Debbie McGee and watch her wide, proud smile as the audience went nuts for her husband walking on stage. That was pretty special too.

Oh, and I threw my camera in my backpack, so...

Lili La Scala and Debbie McGee take a selfie in the Royal Box. Because why wouldn't you?

Oh, and one more time, for all the dunderheaded TV execs and producers who'll tell you there really isn't much of an audience for variety - There they are! 

I'll be performing my latest one man show "Showman"
as part of the London International Mime Festival,
from 21st - 25th of Jan 2014, at the Leicester Square Theatre.
You can find out more about the show, and book tickets, here.
I'd love you to come.


Andrew Ryan said...

Did you ever watch The Secret Cabaret? I loved the combination of illusions, other variety acts, small items with James Randi, David Berglas, and other 'experts', and archive footage. Wiki tells me Frank Abagnale and Ricky Jay took part too, though I must not have been aware of who they were when I watched it as a teenager, as I don't remember them.

Anyway, Channel 4 should either revive the show or produce something like it again. As you point out, there is an audience for it.

Mat Ricardo said...

Yes - The Secret Cabaret was a great showcase both for variety acts and for Simon Drake, who is, of course, still doing his thing at his own venue in London on a regular basis!

I think there's definitely a slow resurgence of variety, and it's only a matter of time before some more of it finds its way back onto TV - whether it'll be in a format that people like me like is another story..