In the heart of picturesque Little Venice, with its colourful houseboats lining the canal outside, Wilfredo Fernandez – “the boy from Granada” – lost no time in making himself at home, opening the night with a warm Mediterranean welcome.
He was ready and waiting at the door of the cosy Canal Café Theatre to accost each guest as they arrived, thrusting out a sweaty palm or planting a pair of prickly kisses on unsuspecting cheeks. I only just managed to hold on to the glass of plonk in my hand (purchasedfrom the stylish Bridge House pub downstairs)as he lunged for the surprise embrace.
Despite said nearvino-tinto-meets-white-shirt disaster, Wilfredo’s simple act of impromptu intimacy won me right over. I instantly warmed to comedian Matt Roper’s grotesque Spaniard and 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 Willy’s sexual innuendos and original pop-tastic ballads (from his album Wilfredo Sings the Jews).
From beginning to end, Wilfredo was a charmer: a lewd yet loveable Latino. 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 and quick wit (or, at the very least, to be splattered by his sputum!).
So, as the warm welcome radiated throughout the show, Wilfredo nibbled away on “the nipple of excitement,” created by his opening repartee and hearty toast to “la vida y la libertad” and began to arouse even the tightest-lipped folk in the audience. Or at least persuaded their oral orifices to curl at the corners with the support of his mute mana, Maria(akaKatie Pollak), who strummed her guitar alongside him and reflected some of his genes: matted black bob, big teeth, goggle-eyes and some legendary Latino couture – tan-coloured circulation-stopping knee-length pop-socks. She took her big-headed brothers orders well and gawked in all the right places.
Meanwhile, Wilfredo worked hard in the limelight, sweating profusely from the effort of performing beneath a glaring spotlight. He bared his soul (and celebrity sexual conquests). This preview of his Edinburgh Fringe material was Erecto!:like a good bit of Harry Potter magic, Wilfredo has constructed a show that, at its best is spell-binding and at the very least, to steal the star’s own words, “really isn’t bad for a fiver.”
In fact, it’s very good. It should be noted, however, that Wilfredo slipped in a bit of playful (and pun-ful) meditation and marketing-oriented hypnosis at the end of the night, so this praise might end with a click of his fingers… but honestly, I think he delivered a treat of a night.
Wilfredo Erecto!Canal Café Theatre, London. 12 & 13 July, 21:30. £5.www.canalcafetheatre.com
Photo credits: Marwan Belaid