The Circus of Horrors came to Cardiff this week. Over the past twenty-two years they have shocked and enthralled audiences with their gleefully macabre take on circus performance, and based on the response of the crowd at St. David’s Hall on Tuesday night, this strange and talented troupe may be going for a long time yet.
An introduction from Beelzebub, the ‘gaylord of the underworld’, sets the tone for the evening. Sissies and chavs, we are told, are not welcome. There is some scene-setting at the beginning, the storyline involves a voodoo king being summoned by a couple of unsuspecting party-goers, but it’s best not to dwell on the details. Any semblance of plot is lost early on, replaced by anarchy.
The ringmaster, Doktor Haze, acts as hellish compere, introducing each member of the Circus before they perform their dark and often dangerous acts. There is a lot to enjoy, from camp theatrics and winking one-liners, to magic tricks and sword-swallowing, to the kind of aerial acrobatics that make you thankful for your seat. Murderous voodoo, knife-throwing, and a Henry Hoover – this show has it all.
The performers are superb throughout, and there are very few slip-ups. Even if mistakes were to be made, it’s hard to be critical when your heart’s in your mouth. The dexterity of the dancers is particularly impressive, especially as they leap over a rope encroached in flames.
There is also music. The show is performed to a soundtrack of heavy metal, combining original songs written by Doktor Haze, with hard-rock twists on well-worn classics. While the music does not necessarily bolster the show, it creates some sense of structure to what is essentially a succession of individual acts.
Make no mistake, although not exactly child-friendly, this is more Rocky Horror than Scream. The show has its tongue well and truly in its cheek, offering fun over fear. Gore is minimal, and any audience concerns about being spattered with fake blood prove ill-founded. Sissies need not be put-off.
An acquired taste perhaps, but if you’re looking for dark, trashy entertainment then it’s well worth keeping an eye out for The Circus of Horrors next time it comes to town.