|Members||Matt Roper Wilfredo
Katie Pollak Mana Maria
Kris Howe Uncle Ignacio Fernandez
Wilfredo has acquired a cult status, particularly among music festival audiences and on the alternative cabaret and comedy circuit in London. Roper has toured the character internationally, performing in South Africa, Italy, Argentina and the United States.
Character origins and appearance
Physically, the character of Wilfredo is a grotesque caricature of Falstaffian appearance: trousers pulled up to the top of a corpulent stomach, a tight flamenco shirt, a wild black mop wig and a set of prominent prosthetic teeth. Typically, the character will always hold a pint of beer on stage, even whilst dancing and singing. He smokes his way throughout songs, salivating over the audience and musicians while berating them with rich expletives. Critics have described the character as "a wonderful and vile creation", "strangely endearing", "joyful and grin-inducing", and "utterly charming and uplifting”.
The character began his life onstage performing cover versions of songs by Leonard Cohen, Phil Spector, Amy Winehouse and the Rolling Stones. In an interview with the student media, Roper stated: “My father was a trad comic so I grew up around a lot of the old school; people like Frankie Howerd and lots of music hall acts. I’d be taken to theatres and all these smoky clubs where there was always a mad speciality artist or a singer in a spangly outfit or a dinner suit onstage, crooning covers. Wilfredo comes from that world for sure.” Elsewhere in the same interview, Roper said he hoped Wilfredo “offers escape”.
Roper has constructed an entire life history and family background to Wilfredo and updates audiences through his performance. The character hails from Granada in Spain, the fourth son of a fourth son, a gifted child prodigy who evolved into a national singing star. The character is always accompanied by a guitarist onstage, often by Katie Pollak in the role of Mana Maria, the younger sister of Wilfredo. The character of Maria wears identical teeth and hair, although pop socked and bespectacled. She is the polar opposite of Wilfredo: where Wilfredo is brash and loud, Maria in contrast is totally mute and performed in a subtle style. On occasion (as at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival) Kris Howe may accompany - also in character - as Wilfredo's 'Uncle' Ignacio.
|“||I’ve undressed women all over the world and they come in so many different shapes and sizes. And I’ve loved every one of them. I have never taken a wife but in many ways I married my career. I don’t understand the singer from Coldplay. When he goes on tour he takes his Hollywood wife with him. Who takes an olive to the olive grove?||”|
—Wilfredo interviewed, December 2011
Wilfredo’s life story is juxtaposed with real life historical events into which Wilfredo is fictionally placed: an appearance at the Benidorm International Song Contest Festival for example is claimed, as is a friendship and a near collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg. Throughout his performances Wilfredo introduces songs from a fictional back catalogue of bestselling albums, with titles ranging from El Chico En El Toro (the Boy on the Bull) to Solo Para Las Damas (Only For The Ladies).
The boorish and outlandish Wilfredo is delusional, believing himself to be the apotheosis of masculinity and all that is attractive to women. This arrogance is counterbalanced by a charm which in turn endears him to audiences. The origin of the name lies in Latin America, meaning 'to desire peace'. Ironically the Urban Dictionary lists 'Wilfredo' as:
An emotionless hardass to those who don't truly know him, but a thoughtful, passionate, loving, dedicated sweetheart to those he cares for. Quite often a liar, but his abundance of great qualities makes up for it. Slightly dorky, but that only adds to the appeal. Also a wonderful cook, hard worker, and fantastic lover. The sexiest man you will ever lay eyes on; the definition of "tall, dark and handsome."[unreliable source?]
Roper first performed the character in 2008 at a benefit in Totnes, Devon before performing at the Glastonbury Festival weeks later. In August he performed at the Maker Sunshine Festival in Cornwall with a full band, before guesting with Barcelona-based gypsy jazz combo Gadjo. The character made his London debut at Camden Town’s Lockstock Festival in November 2008, performing a cover of the Amy Winehouse song Rehab. Encouraged by the positive reception of these appearances, Roper began to perform Wilfredo sporadically until the summer of 2009 while writing and exploring the concept of the character more fully. Another Glastonbury Festival appearance followed, as did performances at the Winchester Hat Fair. In September 2009 Wilfredo began to establish himself by way of guest performances on the London comedy circuit. In March 2010 Wilfredo was placed alongside the Penny Dreadfuls and Angelos Epithemiou in Pippa Evans Old Time New Time Music Hall at the Canal Café Theatre, performing parodies and original song.
Roper presented a sixty minute show Wilfredo: A Man and His Music at the Etcetera Theatre in April 2010. Featuring the character Mana Maria on guitar, Wilfredo performed covers (Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah), parody (Those Were The Days) and original songs from a fictionalized back catalogue of albums. Various affairs with prominent women including Victoria Beckham, American First Lady Michelle Obama and the Princess of Wales are claimed for the first time in The Child Is Not Mine, which becomes a flagship signature song. A journalist on the Camden New Journal described “initial terror” at the character, later adding “I left unscathed, having spent the evening roaring with laughter.” Roper then presented the show for the Brighton Festival Fringe at the Komedia, before performing the character in Lecce, Italy for the Factory K-NOS artist collective.
In July 2010 Wilfredo became the surprise breakthrough act at the Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall, performing two outdoor sets with Mana Maria before hosting the main stage, where he introduced Jarvis Cocker and Talvin Singh to the festival audience. Increasingly satirizing the cult of celebrity, Wilfredo was also filmed chatting to Biba founder, the fashion designer Barbara Hulanicki, giving the impression to onlookers that she was his own personal designer. The following year Wilfredo once again hosted, appearing onstage with John Cooper Clarke, Louis Eliot and Bellowhead.
In August 2010 the character returned to Italy for an appearance at the Salento Summer Festival.
From June 10-July 7, 2013 Wilfredo appeared at the Cape Town Comedy Festival at the Baxter Theatre. On July 12 the character performed at the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation comedy gala in the presence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. On June 25 Wilfredo appeared on the Expresso show, aired nationally on the South African SABC network.
|“||I found myself sucked delightfully into his weird and wonderful world, as he dexterously fondled the funny bones of the modest crowd: about a dozen people clustered around a handful of lantern-lit tables. It was an intimate evening in an intimate venue, one that whirled with sexual innuendos and original pop-tastic ballads. Whether you were laughing at his megalomaniacal afflictions, grimacing at his trademark mouthful of mammoth ivories (he was “born with the full set", if you ever wondered) or at his penchant for phlegmatic hacking – salivating and interspersing his satirical musings with mucus filled eruptions – it was difficult not to be seduced by this Spaniard’s musical ruminations.||”|
In March 2011 Wilfredo enjoyed a limited season at the Leicester Square Theatre where he began to preview new material for the forthcoming Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The writer Joanna Lloyd described him as “the bastard love child of Les Patterson and Julio Iglesias.” The show – a retrospective journey of his life and times told for the first time entirely in original song - eventually became Wilfredo: Erecto!. Further previews were later staged to small audiences at the Canal Cafe Theatre. In addition, on June 16 Roper presented the character to an audience at the Poetry Society in Covent Garden, reciting a spoken-word version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye'.
An appearance in the first series of Rufus Hound’s What’s So Funny? for BBC Radio 7 (now BBC Radio 4 Extra) was enough to initiate further interest in the character from radio audiences, while an appearance at the E4 Udderbelly for Arthur Smith’s Pissed Up Chat Show (sold to audiences as the only show where the host is sober but all his guests are drunk) followed successfully in July 2011.
Wilfredo: Erecto! was performed nightly at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 4–28 August 2011 at the Underbelly, drawing good houses and a positive commentary in the British press. Isy Suttie, writing in the Guardian newspaper, described the show as “weird, intimate and wonderful” while What's On Stage observed "Wilfredo sees himself as a kind of Messiah figure, born to sing, write poetry, and seduce an endless succession of women." The British comedy industry website Chortle noted the character as "sometimes cantankerous, often lecherous and almost certainly consumptive... coughing and burping his way through the set, at one point hacking up phlegm like a horse chewing a toffee" while the critic at Three Weeks lauded Wilfredo as both "disgusting and arousing". The Erotic Review found the character "a lewd yet loveable Latino" and Time Out "an extraordinary creation". From others, Roper found himself tipped as a Steve Coogan for the next generation, while the List found Wilfredo simply "unlikeable".
Wilfredo... and Other Beautiful Creatures
In June 2011 the first of five editions of Wilfredo... and Other Beautiful Creatures was staged at the Phoenix Artist Club in Soho. Headed by Wilfredo and featuring a variety of musical and comic guests, the show took place each month in the basement club. Guests included the Pajama Men, Isy Suttie, Barry from Watford, Loretta Maine, Lewis Schaffer and Lenny Beige.
The Wonderful World of Wilfredo
In February 2012 the first performance of The Wonderful World of Wilfredo was presented at London's BAC, programmed for the N20 Comedy Festival. In April Wilfredo guested at the Camden Roundhouse for a short season in performances curated by Scottee for CircusFest 2012. On July 6 Wilfredo performed in Arthur Smith's Benefit For The Royal Yacht at the E4 Udderbelly at the Southbank Centre, an alternative Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert.
The Wonderful World of Wilfredo was a sixty minute performance during which Wilfredo elaborated on his friendship with Serge Gainsbourg and boasted of affairs with both the actress Angelina Jolie and the British politician Harriet Harman. Reviewed the press as "seductive", "physically repellent but charming" and "quite inappropriate", it was performed nightly at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe at Just the Tonic from 2 to 26 August after previewing in Manchester. In Manchester he guested on Beatwolf Radio, interviewed by Vic McGlynn and performing a live performance of 'Lady Holiday', during which Mike Joyce, former drummer of iconic Manchester band the Smiths, played percussion. In Edinburgh the show gained positive press reviews. The Skinny hailed the show as "a strange blend of obnoxious, almost Sadowitzian humour and exquisitely beautiful music." Time Out magazine noted "Roper inhabits his creation deeply, undercutting his hauteur and self-delusion with beams of charm and dollops of soul" while ThreeWeeks and Broadway Baby both proclaimed the character as "genius". A studio soundtrack of the show has since been recorded and released for download.
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-  iTunes 'The Wonderful World of Wilfredo EP