0 9 mins 2 yrs

Just when you thought that live entertainment was dead the Circus of Horrors team up with the Continental Circus Berlin to bring their own brand of spooktacular entertainment to the big top.

With the big top providing socially distanced seating and air-flow akin to an outside show the Circus of Horrors continued to celebrate their 25th anniversary with most of the acts regular audiences have come to love….and loathe!

Unlike previous tours which toured under a show title, this tour, instead, was simply to celebrate much of what the Circus of Horrors had been able to provide over recent years. There were some notable absentees from the big top shows which included Wee Danny, whose absence allowed his show companion, Henry the Hoover, to take a well-earned break. Also missing was Camp Dracula, the Interceptors from Hell and the Zulu Warriors apart from Rama Dingdong, who brought along his usual slinky self.

The absence of the Interceptors from Hell meant there was no live music, instead the show went ahead to the usual heavy rock accompaniment…just not played live.

Going without a show title the cast provided what was, in many ways, a more traditional circus performance helped at times by members of the Continental Circus Berlin.

The show opens, usual, with the obligatory warnings to the audience about bodily fluids and a request for them not to swallow if showered, all well illustrated by the Mongolian Laughing Boy in the filthiest pair of Y-fronts you’ve ever seen. He not only introduces the show but is often the butt (sic) of the more eye-watering stunts performed on the night.

Enter the ringmaster, Dok Haze, singing one of the Interceptors anthems and meanwhile allowing the rest of the cast to make an appearance and give just a glimpse of what was to come. Rama Dingdong does his acrobatics while trying to avoid being singed by a flaming lance – we’ll revisit the singeing of vital parts later – and this followed by the ever popular ‘pickled person’ who takes the form of a scantily-clad young lady climbing out of a rather small bottle.

The contributions from the Continental Circus Berlin cast members mainly took place well above the big top floor and the first of those cast members, Elaine Evilness, showed off her agility on the rope, doing things I could never imagine doing on the ropes at the school gym as a kid. Swinging, swirling, even hanging by her neck, she performed them all with ease.

The Circus of Horrors’ resident member of the Polish aristocracy, Anastasia IV, was next showing her fire-eating skills and Rama returned to show how to avoid having one’s privates cooked while skipping over a flaming rope.

Probably the show’s biggest oddity, Hannibal Helmurto was next. This is a man who has a forked tongue, more tattoos than a fleet of sailors, implants and piercings galore….and two floating ribs (more of that later too). At this visit HH showed off his pierced septum, and before you get excited this is the bit that separates your two nostrils. You know this is pierced because he can stick his finger right through it….but it’s not the finger you need to worry about as he puts a meat-hook through the piercing ready to hang something from…in this case a railway sleeper! Not only does he lift the sleeper using only his nose but he swings it from side to side.

Returning to more traditional circus fare the Deadly Divas, Killer Kourtney and Rachel Rigamortis, show off their dexterity with hula-hoops before the audience is brought sharply back to Earth as the Mongolian Laughing Boy embarks on one of his skin-crawling demonstrations. I defy anyone to deny that they have. at one time or another, stuck a sewing needle though the dead skin layer of their fingers, well, under the guidance of Dok Haze MLB shoves a couple of steel pins through his neck and cheeks, a little more extreme you have to admit. Now, under normal show conditions some poor soul would be dragged from the audience to remove said pins from said face but not tonight. Oh no, distancing rules don’t allow that so it was up to the Deadly Divas, complete with rubber gloves to do the job. The pins get pulled, the face deforms and the Divas cringe. Does the Mongolian Laughing Boy need a rest, nope, instead he eats a yard of string ready to make out that he’s going to pull it from his stomach – through the stomach wall! The string gets swallowed, washed down with a glass of water, and then he’s presented with a scalpel…a real scalpel! A small hole in his stomach is made to reveal the end of a piece of string which, again, is left to the Deadly Divas to pull out completely. It’s at this point you realise just how many of the audience squirm and squeal (yes, even the men) at these antics.

The first half of the show closes and the second half opens with the Continental Circus Berlin providing the entertainment. First in the form of some motorcycle mayhem in the Sphere of Death and then the acrobats on the jaw-dropping Hamster Wheel of Death (my title, not theirs).

Hannibal and Anastasia IV provide one of the Circus of Horrors’ most popular party tricks in the form of sword and saw swallowing as well as the swallowing of a fully functional and illuminated neon tube. Speaking of illuminated tubes, the Deadly DIvas show how to shine a light using only a Mongolian Laughing Boy and an electric chair, first sticking a fluorescent tube into each ear and then, just for fun, one up MLB’s rectum and the other on the end of his knob. All good fun. But it doesn’t stop there, just to show that the electric chair works Dok Haze steps up with a fire-eater’s petrol-powered wand and lights it on MLB’s head. Remember I mentioned earlier that we would revisit singed hairs….well, now was the time at said wand makes contact with MLB’s unshrouded knob causing his vital organ, and the hair surrounding it, to burst into flames – I’ve never seen MLB move so fast to extinguish the fire.

The show is moving towards its conclusion but not before the Deadly Divas put on a spectacular, and extended, aerial performance on the ropes and silks. Some fantastic moves and acrobatics high above the big top floor.

The Continental Circus Berlin provides its third, and final, contribution to the show with some high-wire antics including a bike-on-a-wire and some well rehearsed balancing skills and the ‘up in the air’ stuff continues as Anastasia IV, the girl with the world’s strongest hair, flies around the big top suspended from a rope tied to that hair…no safety net here (not even a hairnet!). Her act closes with an early fireworks display as she spins wildly amidst a shower of sparks. This display is the indicator that the show is about to end, and it does so as all of the cast return to the stage to say their goodbyes.

When will the Circus of Horrors be back? Who knows, shows are scheduled for the start of 2021 in the usual theatre settings, whether that happens or not we’ll have to wait and see but if you’ve never seen the Circus of Horrors I encourage you to do so, it’s fun in its goriest detail.

Words & images: Reg Richardson