I was expecting a weird man singing weird songs for an hour, and essentially that is what you get with the “world famous” Spanish singing sensation Wilfredo. In this pay-what-you-want show, he performs an intimate gig (often pushing the boundaries of personal space) and in the process, deconstructs his accomplished music career.
Wilfredo is an original and innovative work of fiction inspired, I imagine, by the established lounge artists – the Julio Iglesiases of the world. We could easily be in a sleazy hotel bar in New York (or Bournemouth) as the singer works his charm, swigging a glass of brandy (or, in this case, Carling). The crooked teeth, the flamenco hips (you’ve got to see the hips), the way he hunches over due to his chest-high trousers, all work to flesh out Matt Roper’s peculiar but realistic creation. And it’s so believable that when, for a millisecond, Roper reveals himself by making himself laugh, it just highlights – despite the deliberately bad wig – how well-played the performance is.
Needless to say, Wilfredo is a ladies’ man. His is a tender, loving spirit. He wears his heart on his sleeve and his shirt open to the belly button. He woos women in the crowd with flowers, and songs that compare his characteristics to the male species of numerous animals. There is some very suggestive material throughout – the idea here is clearly to trigger nervous laughter by being overly familiar with the female half of his crowd – and as incense wafts around the room, you wonder what the show would be like if the audience were all men.
But before you get too concerned about the angle Roper takes, let me stress that this is a transparently over-the-top parody, which pushes beyond the initial discomfort and ultimately appeared to amuse even those targeted during the show. It makes a serious and topical point about what it’s acceptable for a famous individual to do, and the joke always does turn back on Wilfredo, revealing a deeper portrait of a sad individual who’s foolishly dedicated his life to “enchanting” women through song.
The songs themselves, accompanied on acoustic guitar by Wilfredo’s uncle Ignacio (who says nothing throughout), have a soft, melancholic, strangely soulful feel to them, complete with warbling. Naturally most of the songs are sung directly to the ladies – in some cases while sitting right in front of them, holding their gaze.
We are constantly made to feel welcome, and privileged to be in the presence of this man – a man who has met the greats, done it all and will not tolerate any disruptions during his deeply personal poetry readings. Wilfredo is certainly an odd experience, but one that makes the Fringe worthwhile. See him in this small space before he jets off back to San Francisco.