Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Interview with Mat Ricardo about the London International Mime Festival

WITH all the frenzy of Christmas and New Year out of the way what better way to relax and ease into 2015 than to see some shows that form part of the London International Mime Festival.
Now in its 38th year the event is the longest-established annual theatre season of its kind and this year boasts innovative acts from around the world – including artists from America, Belgium, France, Japan and New Zealand.
Over the course of 24 days, 18 companies will entertain audiences in venues across the capital, from Sadler's Wells to Soho Theatre as well as the Southbank Centre.
Amongst those taking part will be comedian, juggler and all round entertainer extraordinaire Mat Ricardo.
The award winning "gentleman's juggler" will be taking to the Purcell Room stage at the Southbank Centre with The Showman.
It's not the first time the 45-year-old from Honor Oak Park has performed at the festival but this time he has some new and awe inspiring tricks up his sleeve.
"I've been a fan of this event for years and to be invited to take part is an honour so I couldn't turn it down," he tells me.
"I've been touring the show for 18 months all over the world and it's the best one I've ever done so I'm really excited to be taking it to the Southbank Centre."
It will be a welcome return to the venue not least because at the beginning of his career, Mat used to do street performances outside it.
"I started out as a street entertainer and back in the 1990s I did street shows on the South Bank a few minutes walk from the Southbank Centre. I used to go inside to count my money!"
But what is a juggler and entertainer, who spends a lot of his routines chatting to the audience, doing at a "mime" festival I wonder.
"Ah yes, it's a bit curious isn't it," Mat laughs cheerfully. "The Mime Festival has always been really good at incorporating not just mime but a variety of circus and other stuff which is great, especially for me.
"So I can categorically say there will be lots of talking in my show as I don't shut up! In fact there are only about six minutes during the whole thing when I don't say anything.
"It's very high energy, sit on the edge of your seat stuff and also funny.
"It has to be funny otherwise it's just showing off," he adds.
He promises the show will be packed with awesome skills, object manipulation and fascinating tricks some new and some old favourites - and it will be suitable for all the family.
"It's perfect family entertainment - it's really important and something you learn as a street performer that you are able to entertain and engage all ages and every background.
"I still do the table cloth trick but I've added to it by bringing in another table and moving things from one to the other."
As well as that expect juggling of balls, plates, bricks and glasses as well as balancing tricks, and those involving other objects such as umbrellas and bowling balls and electric saws.
It is all performed by Mat in his trademark natty suit with his witty banter. And although he makes it look easy he says sometimes mistakes do happen - but that's all part of the fun.
"I've been doing this for 30 years but some of the tricks are more complicated than others - it's not dead easy," he says.
"It’s weird as I don’t get nervous of things going wrong. It’s the only art form where if you get something wrong you can try it again and the audience appreciate it all the more.
"If you tried that as a comedian you are dead. However, with this kind of entertainment, people like seeing someone try again and succeed - as long as you succeed in the end.
"Sometimes I will be waiting in the wings and I will be a bit nervous but really I can’t wait to get on stage. For me it’s the safe, comfortable place and where I feel at home. I am much more nervous at parties. On stage it’s my house."
And he says there will be moments where he wants the audience to be sitting on the edge of their seats, as they watch a potentially dangerous stunt.
"There are a couple of moments of mild panic with dangerous stuff - and there are two moments in the show where bad things could happen but I don’t die which is good!" he chuckles.
"There is also a trick I do where I start by telling a story about it - it was done by a vaudeville performer called Paula Deluca who performed it on stage in a vaudeville theatre on Broadway in 1936.
"It involves juggling three 16lb bowling balls. She misjudged the trick and died on stage.
"In terms of the chainsaw juggling, it’s real cliché but it’s a con and not as dangerous as perhaps a performer would make out.
"I talk about it and do a stunt involving three carving knives which are going at 2,000 blade strokes per minute.
"They are like blurs but luckily I have still got my fingers!"
Instantly I wince and Mat laughs.
"I am a showman and an old circus guy and so when I describe it, your reaction is what I like - where the audience are in that heightened state wondering what I am going to do followed by the palpable relief when I do it and show I can do it and make it work without injury.
"I love that and to be able to make an audience feel all those different ways is great. I love making them laugh and to making them think about it."
As well as being part of the festival, Mat says he is excited to see the other acts who will be performing.
"It’s such a respected festival with a well deserved reputation that I know it will be good whatever I see," he says.
"I trust they will book the best stuff in the world so I can be confident of seeing some great visual treats.
"I'd encourage anyone who loves variety, vaudeville, old style cabaret, circus and old school jugglers as well as contemporary performers to go and see some of the amazing shows on offer. You will love it and will be amazed. Tell them I sent you!"

Mat Ricardo will be appearing at the Southbank Centre between January 19 and 21 as part of the London International Mime Festival (January 8 to 31). Tickets cost £18. Visit www.mimelondon.com or www.southbankcentre.co.uk for tickets or call the box office on

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