Cabaret, circus and magic meet videos, podcasts and talk shows. Live. In one stage. No one can accuse Mat Ricardo’s London Varieties of having a misleading title.
The ambitious revue is at once modern and nostalgic. Part old-school vaudeville tribute, part multimedia experiment, London Varieties deftly deploys digital gimmickry for humour and context.
In one running gag, gentleman juggler Mat Ricardo always chooses a new trick to learn before next month’s show, when a video of his blunders will serve as the prologue for his first onstage attempt at the new number. Likewise, every show is recorded live for a podcast, and many jokes ensue from that unusual intrusion.
The most innovative feature of London Varieties is its talk show segment. Turning the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club stage into an improvised live studio, Ricardo interviews a show business guest about their career, influences and other topics of prime-time relevance. Judging from March’s interviewee, comedy writer Graham Linehan (Father Ted, The IT Crowd, Black Books), such talks can quickly become an entertainment industry masterclass, but judging from the silent, unblinking audience that devoured his every word and laughed in unison on cue, that’s far from a bad thing.
Beyond the bells and whistles of its format is a carefully curated bill of vaudevillians. Featured performers in past engagements of London Varieties include luminaries like mind reader Luke Jermay, hula hoop wonder Craig the Incredible Hula Boy and mash-up duo Frisky and Mannish. Mat Ricardo himself is guaranteed entertainment, delivering a consistent blend of sophisticated juggling and clever comedy.
A gentleman through and through, Ricardo is not afraid to welcome fellow jugglers like Arron Sparks. With two yo-yos as his weapon of choice, the four-time Guinness World Record breaker boasts seamless technique and disarming boyish charisma in an electrifying act.
Filled with hilarious real-life anecdotes and accomplished numbers, Mat Ricardo’s London Varieties does what it says on the tin, and to an extent previously unseen in modern cabaret. Variety shows don’t get more varied than this.
Mat Ricardo’s London Varieties. Hosted by Mat Ricardo. Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, London E2 6NB. Second Thursday of every month, 20:00. £10. http://www.matricardo.com
Listen to the Mat Ricardo’s London Varieties podcasts on Comedy.co.uk