A pleasant Tuesday night out, and not all of it spent at the Pleasance; part pleasure, part work (although the work was unpaid, and pleasurable). At 7.30, having shared fatigue around the kitchen table with Richard Herring, I rolled up at the Three Sisters on Cowgate to see gentleman juggler and AIOTM photographer Mat Ricardo recount his life in street performing and variety, illustrated with some truly astounding feats, many of which I’ve seen, filmed, but never up close like this.
His show Three Balls And A Good Suit is quite a change for him, as it involves more talking and less throwing things up in the air. But the linking passages about his life on the cruise ships (“trapped on a floating prison with two and a half thousand cunts”) and on the cobbles of Covent Garden – as well as hanging out with Monkey off of Monkey in Tokyo and appearing on the bottom of the bill with Bradley Walsh and the Krankies – are delivered with panache and good humour. The space he’s in is clearly way too low-ceilinged for a juggling act, but Mat adapts to survive, and occasionally steps offstage so as to create an extra few inches. After 20 years in the trade, his juggling is predictably excellent. A small audience (“quality not quantity”) couldn’t have been more responsive, clapping and whooping and gasping on cue. Some of this stuff is mind-blowing, not least the cigar box routine, and Mat’s piece de resistance – which he rightly saves for the end – removing a tablecloth and, uniquely, putting it back on, without unsettling a single cup or plate.
Because, frankly, the bar of the Three Sisters, and by extension the courtyard outside, is horrible, Mat and I repaired to the Underbelly for a pear cider. They had run out of pear cider, so we had a normal cider. It could have been worse. Although Gutted: The Musical had a night off, and thus Michael “Princess” Legge and his new best friend Jim Bob were on the town and texting me on the half hour, I snuck off to Mamma’s Pizza on Grassmarket on Mat’s recommendation, and I will now pass on that recommendation. It seems tiny and full but the staff will find you a nook to sit in, and the menu, albeit laminated, offers pretty much any combination of any pizza. I chose mozzarella, chicken and Jalapeno peppers; Mat had a banana pizza – perhaps he is pregnant, hence the career move back to street performing – and had enough left over to take home in a doggy bag for his breakfast.
I finally succumbed at 11pm to Michael’s constant demands and met he and Jim and the beardy two thirds of the Gentlemen’s Review in Brookes Bar, high in the Pleasance Dome. Brookes Bar is well known as a fancy media haunt, as you need some kind of secret handshake or unusual swagger to get in. Michael and co, despite their lowly place on the showbiz ladder, had managed it by either being signed in by Russell Kane or pretending to have been signed in by Russell Kane. If this works, then I suggest you just go there and try it. As luck would have it, I bumped into Jon and Rob, two bigwigs from comedy powerhouse and Stewart Lee-repellent Avalon, whom I assumed would get me in to the hallowed bar. But they expected me to get them in! Was Russell Kane allowed to sign in up to 100 freeloaders? We never found out, as Jon and Rob spotted a woman who was clearly important, and she got all three of us in. Get us.
It’s not that exciting in there, unless you are excited by spotting the man who plays the man who accuses his gran of having special wine gums with real wine in them in the VW advert, which I obviously am. (He is actually called Sy.) Anyway, I stayed for a while, but had to tear myself away from Princess Michael as he held court to his adoring accolytes and show up at midnight at the Gilded Balloon Wine Bar to be one of the contestants in Comedy Countdown, a self-explanatory quiz show played mainly for laughs, but with the same infrastructure as the popular TV show, hosted, in this instance, by George Ryegold playing an avuncular host called Toby, with the mathematically gifted Paul Sinha as Carol, and the deadpan James Sherwood and camp Tom Allen in Dictionary Corner. I was playing against genial Gary Delaney. By “playing against” I mean we were both expected to come up with words from the chosen letters and sums from the chosen numbers except try and be funny at the same time. I beat him with a pathetic score of seven, to his five, but mainly because he kept getting disqualified. It was, in every sense, just a bit of fun.
Although I was reliably informed that the previous night’s show had been much more riotous and entertaining and more enthusiastically received, I still enjoyed doing it.
I had stopped drinking alcohol at the pizza place, and stuck to tap water for the remainder of the evening, so even though it was late when I got in, about 1.30, I was not drunk. The big revelation of the night was picking up a copy of the little magazine Fest in the Dome and finding – but not looking for or expecting – the first review of Secret Dancing! I can’t link to it, as it is not on their website, but it is a three-star review, which might be a blow to Richard, but is tremendous for me. The reviewer was very nice, in general, but this is the best line:
The spectre of Herring is never far away …
I may write this quote on my face for the rest of the Fringe, if not for the rest of my life.