Mat Ricardo: Showman

Juggling is impressive. Juggling with household objects is very impressive. Juggling with bowling balls is even more impressive. But juggling is also repetitive. What works well when you’re watching street performances for five minutes loses its novelty fifteen minutes into an hour long show.

Ricardo, after twenty-eight years of being a professional juggler, clearly loves what he does and provides the audience with a potted history of juggling throughout the show.

Starting with a bit called ‘Tricks I Can’t Do Yet’, Ricardo starts out juggling cigar boxes, balancing various objects on his face, and doing a ‘Swan Catch’: a blind catch on the back of the neck. Much of what happened in the opening moments of the show was jaw-dropping, but after seeing something balanced on someone’s face several times, you start believing you could do it yourself – which is never a good sign for a show that promises “fantastic facts of manual dexterity” – in spite of Ricardo’s repeated insistence that what he is doing is incredibly difficult.

Ricardo, after twenty-eight years of being a professional juggler, clearly loves what he does and provides the audience with a potted history of juggling throughout the show. The macabre details of the onstage death of a strong-woman juggler meant that the tension was sky-high for anything that involved knives or heavy objects – which constituted much of his set. Ricardo established a rapport with the audience very well. There was a sense throughout that he genuinely wanted the audience to understand the history and appeal of juggling, rather than simply passing it off in the same category as children’s entertainers and street magicians. When his tricks didn’t quite come off as planned, he covered his errors with well-timed jokes.

Unfortunately, after making a series of disgruntled comments about bartenders ‘stealing’ the act of juggling from more traditional vaudevillian performers, Ricardo went on to perform his own version of a bartending routine, much of which was spent picking dropped bottles off the floor. Perhaps it was an off day, but it felt as if Ricardo had bitten off slightly more than he could chew.

The most impressive feat of the evening was the finale, involving a tablecloth, four china cups and saucers, and a vase of flowers. After performing the standard trick of removing the tablecloth from underneath said objects, he then did something which had far more of a wow factor (see the show to find out what it was), and provided a nice end to a show with some extraordinary moments. Much of Ricardo’s show is ridiculously impressive, but impressiveness only works the first few times, before quickly becoming less and less spectacular – and perhaps even a little mundane.

Reviews by Joanna Bowman

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The Blurb

The Gentleman Juggler returns to Edinburgh by popular demand following a triumphant run in 2013 and sell-out season in the West End. Witness a show packed full of big laughs, serious skills and breathtaking spectacle. See genuine danger, dexterous elegance and thrills, performed by a man at the top of his game. ‘Incredible skills. Engaging and funny’ **** (Scotsman). ‘Brilliant!’ ***** (Herald). ‘Hilarious! ***** (FringeGuru.com). Winner of Best Speciality Act at London Cabaret Awards and Herald Angel Theatre Award.

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