WHAT THE CRITICS SAID:
Burlesco skyrocketed into public consciousness – Vogue Magazine
Along with Circus Oz, the most exciting new company in Australia today – Theatre Australia
punk and chic – Sunday Telegraph
a brilliant mime, with an almost hypnotic command of his audience – The National Times
There is no greater mime artist in Australia to compare with him – The Australian
rivetting moments of comic mime – Campaign
It could well be we have another Diaghilev in our midst. Matou’s work is closer to Bejart and Ziegfeld than anything in Australian contemporary theatre – Theatre Australia
The wizard of Oz – POL Magazine
- Based on “Masque”, a tribute to Michael Matou compiled and produced by Martin Raphael and held at the Kirk Gallery, Sydney, on 12 and 13 December 1987
Born in Sydney in 1947, Michael Matou began his theatrical career at both the Pink Panther and Barrel Theatre in Sydney as an illustrator and set designer, and evolved into designing sketches, costumes and performing in erotic Burlesque cabaret.
He was discovered there in 1975 by Lindsay Kemp, who invited him to join his company in its productions of Mr Punch’s Pantomime and Flowers, performing in London and at major theatre festivals in Europe.
In 1977 he began working with Martin Raphael with a newly formed company, delighting audiences in London, Toronto and the Edinburgh Festival with their original production Café Debris.
He returned to Australia in 1979 where he formed Sideshow Theatre Company, with Martin Raphael, Fifi L’Amour, Kevin English, Simon Reptile, Cigarette and Barbara Williams as lighting designer/operator.
The company performed Burlesco at Garibaldi’s in Darlinghurst, leading to a sell-out season at Nimrod Downstairs in 1979 and a season in Melbourne in 1981.
1979 also saw a fourth production of Café Debris at the abandoned Gladstone Hotel in William Street, Kings Cross, featuring Matou as the pivotal Madam Flash.
April 1981 saw the production of Beauty and the Beast at the Regent Theatre in Sydney, with the company dressed in original costumes from the Peking National Opera. Matou designed, choreographed and directed, in addition to featuring as The Beast.
In November 1980, Matou opened the new Tivoli in Sydney with the Hi Spots extravaganza. In 1982 he accepted an invitation from Lindsay Kemp to re-join his company, and until 1985 toured with the company in various productions in Australia and Europe. He continued to work solo in theatre and film in Australia and Europe, resuming work with Lindsay’s company in 1987 and basing himself in Barcelona, where he designed and directed at the Bel Epoch nightclub.
He died of AIDS in Barcelona in 1987.
Throughout the years, Matou created brilliant sketches, studies and paintings, exhibiting in Sydney in 1980 and 1981. Many people all over the world have pieces of his work, and his studies include Gala Dali, Peter Brooke, Lindsay Kemp, Reg Livermore, Divine, self-portraits and many others. An actor, director, designer, illustrator and artiste, he has been compared to the likes of Warhol, Diaghilev and Cocteau.
In truth, his vision has touched and inspired, provoked and entertained thousands of people all over the world.
Lindsay Kemp wrote on the occasion of his death in 1987:
“Michael leaves more of himself behind than most people when they leave us, because more than most people he knew how to transform himself into unforgettable images – extreme, bizarre, but always deeply human and deeply true …… For everything that he was, for his melancholy as well as his humour, for his shyness as well as the daring of his imagination, for all the images that he created and became and that remain, for his life, we can only say Thank you”.