Friday, 20 January 2012

The Circus of Horrors. The Ventriloquist. The Anvil, Basingstoke, Thursday 12th January 2012

The Circus of Horrors came about by an encounter between ‘ringmaster’ Dokter Haze and circus veteran Gerry Cottle at, ironically, a funeral. Haze had toured a version of the show but felt he had gone as far as he could. Realizing the gap in the market for an alternative rock’n’roll circus he went ahead by recruiting the bizarre and the fantastical.  The devilish new company hit the road to great acclaim.This latest show, The Ventriloquist, set in 1921 is a modest yet hellish tale of a travelling ‘vampire circus’ descending on the unsuspected citizens of Berlin.

However, this is no conventional show but a phantasmagoria of cabaret, burlesque and gothic rock opera. A walk on the ‘dark side’ inhabited, amongst others, by sword swallowers, a glass eater,  a knife thrower, various tumblers and acrobats  and a remarkable contortionist who manages to squeeze into a bottle.
As the audience peer through half closed eyes in fearful anticipation it is evident that the whole enterprise is firmly tongue in cheek and no one is really getting hurt. It is first-rate knockabout circus in the best tradition.
I last saw the show back in 2005 and if my memory serves me, it had more of a sadistic evil edge and less comedy. It’s now been on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night, Richard and Judy and most recently Britain’s Got Talent. That could be a concern but  just to be clear, Haze, no fawning pussycat in the horror department, has said of the Britain’s Got Talent appearance that it served the purpose of increasing their profile and absolutely ‘nothing more’.

The Circus of Horrors is not an experience to repeat unless you take unknowing friends and note their reaction as sword swallower Hannibal Helmurto, a tattooed maniac, plunges his sword deep into his body. Add to that the bow-and-arrow-firing contortionist who twists her body into positions you would not think possible of any ‘human’ and you have a show offering up thrills that we rarely get the chance to see these days.
A jaw dropping evening of diabolic proportions but for the over delicate or easily shocked note this sound advice from the ‘Circus’: Their show ‘contains some nudity & language of an adult nature, is not suitable for children, people of a nervous disposition’ and furthermore ‘chavs & sissies’. Don't say you were not warned.

For  Newbury Weekly News published 19th January 2012 for full details of the Circus and the current tour.

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