There are those of us who stand in awe and wonder at the street performers on the Mile and those of us who tut and move on, unimpressed by the same old tricks that we’ve seen performed too many times before. I’ll hold my hand up and say that I tend to fall into the latter camp, so going to see a performance from an accredited professional juggler was not an experience that I was expecting to take an awful lot from. Luckily, this show surpassed my expectations and then some.
Mat Ricardo is a tremendously talented performer and an extremely eloquent, likeable host. Dressed in a dapper suit that enhances his gentleman juggler status, he starts things off with some deceivingly simple tricks for his warm-up, darting around the space juggling cigar boxes and balancing wine glasses. Ricardo keeps an open dialogue with his audience, bouncing off any response with ease. At one point during the show he was apparently heckled by a small child, which he sportingly played along with. By creating this rapport with his audience we are lead to believe that everything the showman is doing or saying is completely true. This is where he juggles in the comedy and spices up the routine with some devilishly cheeky moments which toy with expectations by playing a few tricks on the audience. The show becomes unbearably intense at times and it certainly feels that the performer is putting more than just his reputation on the line when delving into the next dangerous trick. Not to give too much away, as the element of surprise is what gives the show much of its strength, I will add that the bowling ball trick is a definite highlight.
Throughout the show, Ricardo lovingly tells tales of famous past jugglers and the hour provides a platform to also showcase his impressive level of knowledge around the history of his craft. There is a definite sense that he himself is a very old-school performer. Less sportsmanlike is his dismissal of street performers and revealing the tricks of other jugglers seems slightly unnecessary. Whilst Ricardo himself is a joy to watch, the staging of the production is a little lacking. Props are left scattered around the space before and after they are used. This may work fine for a street performer who doesn’t have the benefits of a nice stage to work with, but with a large stage in the Pleasance Dome, it seems like a wasted opportunity to have not added a little more razzle dazzle. Still, it’s the thrilling skills of the performer that we’re really here to see and in that regard Ricardo more than delivers with a thoroughly entertaining hour that keeps us on the edge of our seats.