In the 1970s, brother and sister duo The Carpenters were one of the best-selling music artists the world had ever seen. In the 2010s, comedy duo Frisky and Mannish became one of the most popular musical parody acts the Edinburgh Fringe had ever seen. Now one half of that duo, Matthew Floyd Jones presents his first major solo show - ‘Richard Carpenter is Close to You’. The first show ever created specifically about Richard, as opposed to Carpenters in general or Karen, this is a piece that's been crying out to be created... but only by Mannish.

This critically acclaimed musical tragicomedy visit The Berry Theatre, Hedge End on Saturday November 3.

This is a show filled with bittersweet dark comedy that tells the hilarious, traumatic, imaginary tale of the ultimate piano player; a character-comedy/theatre/live music hybrid that sprinkles pitch perfect song parodies over an ultimately very moving story.

Matthew Floyd Jones told us about the show and how it came about...

1. What made you choose to write a show around Richard Carpenter?

When I was 6, I moved to a new school. On the first day, I told a brown-haired girl I liked her sandals. We became best buddies and she turned out to be Surrey’s youngest expert on The Carpenters. So I raided my parents’ vinyl collection and started cultivating a deep love for 12-part harmonies and double-tracked Wurlitzer. Their music was the soundtrack to my childhood, and I will always harbour a deep affection for both of them.

Richard is the focus of my show, mainly because, just like him, I am a boyish fair-haired piano-player who made his career as the double-act partner to an extraordinary female singer. It is a crazy, fabulous, uplifting, distressing, musical journey through his tortured mind, but it’s not a biopic. Legally, I have to stress that. I’m sort of like Shakespeare; in that I’ve also taken a real historical figure named Richard and then imagined a version of him that suits my dramatic needs. It is my fevered imagining of what it might be like to be in Richard Carpenter’s shoes. (Chunky white platforms, obviously.)

2. How do you get ready for a show?

Proper dressing rooms are unfortunately a luxury to us troubadour showfolk, so whatever prep you do has to be adaptable to every kind of venue, from a tent in a field to the kitchen corridor of a pub… I keep it simple. All I really need is water for hydration, and light to do makeup by. But since this upcoming tour is in proper venues (hallelujah!), I guess I might add a few more things to my rider - room temperature San Pellegrino, vegan buffet platter, emotional support animal (poodle, ideally), Swedish masseur… To make the show better for the audience, obviously, it’s very important to always think of your audience.

3. What’s your favourite song to perform from the set and why?

The gigantic opening medley of Carpenters spoofs is very fulfilling because I love seeing who gets the jokes and when - like a ripple effect. And it’s always very satisfying when an audience gets into your groove and makes a clear decision to go with you. But my favourite individual number is probably the climactic solo song that the whole show builds up to - the anticipation of what his new musical sound will be is ratched up so high by the time he finally unleashes it. And then, judging by the usual reaction, it is nothing like what the audience are expecting!

4. What do you like most about being on tour?

Getting to see, and then smash the stereotypes of, the British Isles. London is a diamond of course, but there are gems all over the country. For instance, who knew I would love Hull and Doncaster, when word on the grapevine told me I wouldn’t? I also like stealing hotel toiletries and eating at service stations, so it’s really the life for me.

5. If you could do a show about any other 70s pop star, who would it be?

I have a critically-acclaimed Bee Gee impression in my back pocket, so that could be a good option, but actually I’m a bit fed up with shaggy wigs so maybe not. That also rules out Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand. Maybe someone with not much hair at all? Elton John. Yes, that’s a great shout! I play piano, I like eyewear, I have been known to kiss a man, and I’m pretty good at pinball.

6. What’s been your favourite gig you’ve done so far?

The international premiere was at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2018, which was an absolute corker of a dream. It was such an honour to be programmed and flown over to begin with, not to mention that they then went and put me in the opening gala and my whole run sold out. The whole thing was just Cloud 9 type stuff - I will never forget the thrill of being halfway across the world, saying and singing my own words, and getting a standing ovation.

7. Tell us five things you couldn’t live without when you’re on the road?

A clothes steamer to get rid of creases in the yellow polyester, an iPad stocked up with old episodes of Richard Briers sitcoms, a supply of fruit juice (I always crave juice after a show), a nice semi-expensive kind-to-skin makeup remover, and, as Virginia wished for all those years ago, a room of one’s own.

8. Do you have a favourite on-the-road anecdote?

It was a preview in Oxford. A lot of technical things went wrong, but luckily they were a lovely bunch (including the most stunningly glamorous 92-year-old lady) and we had a great laugh... except something was definitely feeling odd, although I couldn’t put my finger on it. Back in the dressing room, I took my wig off, and you will not believe what I saw. There was a lemon cake in there. Somehow, a mini lemon sponge cake had got wedged into my wig before I put it on. I did an entire show with a small cake in my wig.

9. What’s the best/funniest/most shocking piece of audience feedback you’ve had about the show?

Before my first show at Buxton Fringe 2017, a woman grabbed my arm as I passed, told me she had seen the real Carpenters in concert at the Palladium in 1974, and then ominously said I had "a lot to live up to." No hint of a smile, not even a wry mouth-corner turned up. Full serious threatening intensity. I squeaked out a titter and ran into the venue. The show started. She was in the front row, by herself, Sauv Blanc in one hand, eyeballing me. At the curtain call, I told them they were a really great crowd and thanked the Carps lady for not walking out. She leaned forward, everyone breathless to see what her verdict was, after an hour of me lampooning her favourite band of all time: "You did great but that is not what Richard’s hair looks like.” Basically a 4-star review - I’ll take it!

10. How do you like to relax after a tour?

Being off tour is much more stressful. Rent, admin, jobsearching… I want to stay on tour forever, just taking it one day at a time, one place at a time, one audience… where all that matters is the show!