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Mat Ricardo: Three Balls and a Good Suit - Free
Published on Sunday, 15 August 2010

5 stars

Laughing Horse @ The Three Sisters (venue website)
5 - 19 Aug, 7:30pm (8:30pm)
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

Five stars for a juggler?  I assure you, no mistake.  And the prejudice which makes such acclaim seem surprising is just one theme of this wryly reflective show, which mixes envy-inspiring physical skill with a well-told, deeply personal tale.

There’s no shortage of street performance in Edinburgh just now – but up close and personable, Ricardo demonstrates a subtlety of wit and technique which just wouldn’t work among the mayhem of the Royal Mile.  In this intimate venue with a captive crowd, there’s no need to climb a ladder and juggle a chainsaw; but his audience gasped just as loudly when he bounced a teacup off his shoulder, landing it neat and unbroken back on the tray.  He throws cigar boxes around, whips tablecloths away, and balances this and that on his nose.  It’s impressive, it’s often hilarious… and if it were all he did, it would still be a fine way to spend an hour.

But – while you’ll surely be impressed by his mastery of his craft – that’s not what makes this show.  No, its true strength lies in its storytelling, looking back over a life spent perfecting this least-understood physical art.  Like all street performers, Ricardo knows how to keep a patter going – and his travels have given him plenty of material to share.  In what other context could you name-drop the Krankees, before launching into a story about an escapologist being carted away?  Be warned, though: while it might sound like this is a good show to take the kids to, both the language and content are distinctly for grown-ups.

And there’s something else grown-up about the monologue.  It’s infused with a bittersweet sadness – a reflection on a career which, as it grew more successful, demanded more and more time away from the things which make life truly worthwhile.  You’re a fool if you believe every anecdote you hear in this show, but the darker parts of Ricardo’s story must surely be for real.  It’s disarmingly candid and, at times, painfully poignant – but like the showman he is, Ricardo always has a joke standing by to defuse the tension and lift the mood.

When he performs, Ricardo says, he has just one aim: to send the audience away saying there’d been something in his show they’d never seen before.  Well, you know what?  It worked.  For the first time, I looked at a juggler and saw what he really is: a skilful and committed artisan, the equal of any of the high-falutin’ actors I’ll rub shoulders with this Fringe.  And the bonus of an hour spent with Ricardo?  I laughed myself silly too.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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