Wilfredo performs in Camden Town, London
|Members||Matt Roper Wilfredo
Katie Pollak Mana Maria
Kris Howe Uncle Ignacio Fernandez
Wilfredo is a fictional comedy character portrayed by the British comedian Matt Roper.
The character is an obnoxious, deluded and uncouth satire of a romantic singer characterized in a Commedia dell'arte style. 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 Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, South Africa, Australia and Argentina.
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'.
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 10 June – 7 July 2013 Wilfredo appeared at the Cape Town Comedy Festival at the Baxter Theatre. On 12 July the character performed at the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation comedy gala in the presence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. On 25 June 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.||”|
|— Erotic Review, July 2011|
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 16 June 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 ThreeWeeks 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 6 July 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 by the festival 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". A studio soundtrack of the show has since been recorded and released for download.
Wilfredo Comes To Town (Documentary short)
July 12, 2013 saw the first screening of the documentary short Wilfredo Comes To Town at London's Leicester Square Theatre in an evening billed as Wilfredo on Stage/Wilfredo on Screen: A Celebration. Shooting over the winter of 2011/2 on the streets of London and at Abbey Road Studios, it was an attempt to move the character from the stage to the screen. The film-maker Mat Snead has said of the film: "I think what I wanted to do was to try and take Wilfredo off stage and almost push the absurdity of it by showing him in a real world environment. Wilfredo really does exist on stage, so what I was trying to do was get him off stage and get him into some different environments and do some things that you can’t do on stage. I’ve seen a lot of those kinds of acts, but there are very few that can actually pull it off."
Wilfredo: Deconstructed and World Tour – present
Following a short Central European tour of Budapest, Brno, Bratislava and Hradec Králové, Wilfredo: Deconstructed opened at the Edinburgh Festival 31 July to August 24, 2014, drawing good reviews in the festival press. The Scottish magazine The Skinny noted the performance as "a cabaret performance much closer to the real thing than you might have believed possible on arrival. For all the Spanish crooner parody (which could so easily descend into dated, 2D 'funny foreigner' stuff) the joke is perhaps on us" while Kate Copstick of the Scotsman newspaper hailed the character as "a master of seduction" and the music "timeless". Such criticism was later lost on BBC Radio 2, who banned Peace All Over The World (At Christmas Time) – a festive single release by the character in a duet with the comedian Pippa Evans under the guise of Latino star Carmella – on the basis of "daytime listeners being offended".
Wilfredo embarked on a Spring tour of the Asia-Pacific region in 2015, having opened at the Adelaide Fringe on March 1 and giving performances in Manila, the Philippines, Singapore and at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Presently Wilfredo makes regular weekend appearances at the Slipper Room, a vaudeville and variety theatre in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. According to a piece by the British comedy blogger John Fleming published in December 2015, Wilfredo will appear in a feature film entitled The Mel and Fanny Movie, directed by James Habacker. Shooting is to begin in New York City early 2016.
- Brighton Fringe Interview - Matt Roper, Komedia, The New Current, retrieved 8 January 2012
-  Showtime Tenerife: Wilfredo, Kai Humphries, Daniel Simonsen, Jessica Fostekew – Sept 20 2014
- Corriere del Mezzogiorno Wilfredo, il Rock visto da Granada
- ConnectMagazine.it Wilfredo, Un Uomo e La Sua Musica. A Nardò il fenomeno lounge dell'Inghilterra
-  Alex Frackleton, Wilfredo (UK) Open Air Metamorphisis. Hradec Králové, Czech Rep. Fri 27 June 2014
-  'KarliBebenRückschau' Karli Beben – Feinkost Blog Sept 2014
- The Daily Hungary 'Unique Character Act To Perform in Budapest' Daily Hungary 21 June 2014
- The Slovakia Daily 'Character Performer in Bratislava on Thursday' Slovakia Daily 21 June 2014
-  'Cape Town Funny Festival: Line-up' Expressoshow.com 11 June 2013
- AdelaideFringe.com.au Adelaide Fringe: An Unforgettable Evening with the Magnificent Wilfredo 1–15 March 2015
-  Inside Buenos Aires 10–17 March 2014
- What's Up Gringo? Magazine Feeling Funny In Buenos Aires? You’re not alone.
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- Exclusive Interview - Christmas Wilfredo and Other Beautiful Creatures, London, The New Current, retrieved 8 January 2012
- Comedycv - Matt Roper, Comedycv.com, retrieved 8 January 12
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- What's On Stage Edinburgh Reviews What's on Stage – Edinburgh Festival 2011, Wilfredo 8 January 2012
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- Time Out: Pippa's Old Time New Time Music Hall, Time Out London, retrieved 8 January 2012
- Wilfredo at the Etcetera - Camden New Journal, Camden New Journal, retrieved 8 January 2012
- Vimeo - Port Eliot Festival: Lucia Helenka films the 2010 festival and asks a host of performers including Stephen Jones, Jarvis Cocker, Anna Sui, Anita Pallenberg, Barbara Hulanicki, Wilfredo and more what makes Port Eliot so special for them, Vimeo: Port Eliot Festival, retrieved 9 January 2012
- Matt Roper and Jackie Juno a double bill at the Totnes Festival, PRSD, retrieved 15 September 2010
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- "Erotic Review - Wilfredo: Erecto!", Erotic Review, retrieved 8 January 2012
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- Poetry Society - An Evening with Shy Yeti and Other Animals, Poetrysociety.org.uk, retrieved 8 January 2012
- BBC - BBC Radio 4 Extra Programmes What's So Funny? Episode 12, Series 1. Broadcast Fri 24 Jun 2011 – Retrieved 8 January 2012
- Arthur Smith's Pissed Up Chat Show Time Out – Retrieved 8 January 2012
- The Guardian Guardian.co.uk – Edinburgh Festival 2011, Isy Suttie: My Edinburgh 8 January 2012
- Soundcloud Ben Walters reviews Wilfredo: Erecto for Time Out, retrieved 8 January 2012
- So It Goes - John Fleming 'Is Matt Roper the new Steve Coogan or is that just a trite headline for this blog? So It Goes – Edinburgh Festival 2011, ret. 8 January 2012
- The List - Bizarre and creepy cruise ship act The List – Wilfredo: Erecto!, ret. 8 January 2012
- Time Out London, Cabaret: Wilfredo and Other Beautiful Creatures Time Out London, cabaret – Retrieved 8 January 2012
- BBC - BBC Radio 4 Extra Programmes The Comedy Club Interviews. Broadcast Sun 25 Dec 2011 – Retrieved 8 January 2012
- N20 Comedy Festival BAC N20 Comedy Festival – Retrieved 30 August 2012
- 'Camp' at Roundhouse preview Time Out London – Retrieved 30 August 2012
- Underbelly Festival Underbelly Festival – ARTHUR SMITH'S BENEFIT FOR THE ROYAL YACHT (ROYAL YACHT AID) – Retrieved 30 August 2012
- Soundcloud: Arthur Smith's Udderbelly Madness – Retrieved 30 August 2012
- The Skinny The Wonderful World Of Wilfredo, Reviewed by Bernard O'Leary – Retrieved 30 August 2012
- London Is Funny - The Wonderful World of Wilfredo reviewed The Wonderful World Of Wilfredo, Reviewed – Retrieved 30 August 2012
- Broadwaybaby.com London Is Funny: Review: The Wonderful World Of Wilfredo – Retrieved 30 August 2012
- Time Out Ben Walters on cabaret at the Edinburgh Fringe 2012 – Retrieved 30 August 2012
-  iTunes 'The Wonderful World of Wilfredo EP
- Comedy Chords Interview with Matt Roper: Wilfredo on Stage / Wilfredo on Film: A Celebration -On June 28, 2013
- Time Out London Time Out London Critic's Choice: Wilfredo on Stage / Wilfredo on Film: A Celebration – Jul 2 2013
- UK FIlm Review UK Film Review: Mat Snead Interview – 27 January 2014
- The Skinny The Skinny: Matt Roper: Wilfredo Deconstructed @ Heroes at the Hive | 22 Aug 2014
- The Scotsman 247 Blog: Matt Roper: Wilfredo Deconstructed | Kate Copstick review 12 Aug 2014
- ES London Evening Standard | Move Over Lena Dunham / Wilfredo and Carmella's BBC Blackout | Bruce Dessau | 15 Dec 2014
-  iTunes USA 'Wilfredo Unchained: Live in California'
- "UK comedy performer Matt Roper aka 'Wilfredo' in criminal court in New York". John Fleming's blog – SO IT GOES. Retrieved 2016-03-01.