Mat Ricardo: Showman review – a slick and artful juggling act

Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh
This gloriously old-fashioned celebration of the juggler harks back to the golden age of variety and vaudeville

Everyone loves an acrobat or an aerialist, but who loves the juggler? In the audience's eyes, the clown and the juggler (sometimes the same thing) come pretty low in the circus pecking order. But that wasn't always the case, as Mat Ricardo makes clear in this slick, hugely enjoyable and artful one-man show that celebrates the art of the gentleman juggler.

Ricardo mixes juggling feats with stories of the eminent jugglers of yesteryear, men and women who were feted as the great entertainers of their age. He points out the differences between magic and juggling: one is sleight of mind, the other sleight of hand; one is about deception, the other about being honest. The audience, he points out, love him all the more when he fails. His is a win-win situation.

It is for us, too. Ricardo is open, self-deprecating and very funny, but all the while makes us aware that we are watching a consummate act, one that teases us to the very end with the prospect of his signature whip-off-the-tablecloth routine. Ricardo makes it all look easy, and then he contradicts that by telling us that a routine involving five balls took five long years to master. He spills a few secrets, too: it turns out that chainsaw juggling is dangerous, but not as dangerous as it looks.

This is a gloriously old-fashioned, neatly put together show, one that looks back to the golden age of variety and vaudeville. It does what it does with real aplomb, terrific humour and genuine skill. This showman deserves your applause.

• At Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal on 30 August. Then touring.

Contributor

Lyn Gardner

The GuardianTramp

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