Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Circus of Horrors - The Swansea Grand 17th January 2013

For more than 6 years, I have been wanting to spend a night being entertained by "The Circus Of Horrors" - this steams from my love of  Victorian Freak Shows, Side Shows, Curios and my discovery of  "The Jim Rose Circus Side Show" which used to get a lot of coverage on UK TV (late at night of course) when I was a teen.

Promo Shot from The Grand Theatre, Swansea Website
From reading about this show in Bizarre Magazine, I had envisioned it being something similar to "Jim Rose..." or possibly even "The Jim Rose Circus Side Show" meets Daniel Knauf's "Carnivale" meets Todd Browning's "Freaks"  - Carnivale is yet another show I adored that didn't get it's conclusion, but that I guess is another story -  the point is I expected dark, creepy, Gothic and thrilling with Circus acts harking back to the days prior to political correctness, when certain types of people could only find work on the road by playing up their "Deformities" or their "Strange Abilities"...

If you don't know about "The Jim Rose Circus Side Show" check it out by clicking the link in this text, I guess I should issue a disclaimer too : "People of a sensitive disposition, or the easily grossed out and children under the age of 16 ... blah, blah... you know the rest"  - Although personally I don't quite agree with that age ban - but that's just my opinion.

Every year that The Circus of Horrors has come to Wales, there has been some reason why I could not go, from Aaron being too young (there's a 16 and over policy) to lack of transport or money. Sadly each time it was happening we'd be in Swansea and have to see all the Goths, Metal Heads and Students lining up to go inside and we kept thinking how there is no way we wouldn't enjoy it as the people it appealed to were just like us and it always promised to be "Dark" and hell, I love "Dark"!

  I had it in my head that The Circus of Horrors was a UK version of Jim Rose's awesome show and so I was adamant that one day I would be sitting in the audience, and last night I was!   But I guess that old adage is true, you should be careful what you wish for!

One of the main reasons for us both wanting to see this show was Hannibal Helmerto, we'd seen some videos of this guy and were and still are in awe, so the opportunity to see him perform live was for us definitely not to be missed... He didn't disappoint, I just wish there had been more, much more of him, heck I'd have paid the same price for half hour of just him doing whatever he wants and gone home very happy!

If you've never seen his act before - Check him out in the video below:

Possibly because a few years ago, I decided I'm not prepared to keep paying for a TV Licence just to watch  a few documentaries and C.S.I that I could watch for free online, and partly because I absolutely hate all these "Celebrity shows" and who-the-hell-cares-someone's-"Got Talent"  type programmes that British TV seems to want to churn out in the thousands, not only that - I really object to that sad talentless wan*er Jonathan Ross and his idiot grubby-faced-friend  Russell Brand ( for your information using a few "big" words and combining them with "Baby Talk"  is NOT a sign of intelligence!) - being paid big bucks to talk shit... so I phoned up the TV Licencing people and told them "I'm unplugging it as I object to paying almost £200 a year for a load of shit I don't even want to watch".

 I also object to contributing towards Jonathan Ross' £6,000000 a year wage, through The License Fee - which I just don't believe he does enough to earn, nor do I feel he is talented enough to be able to expect this kind of yearly wage!

So we now watch what we want online or on dvd or video... The point of that mini-rant was to say I guess in a way I'm quite far removed from what's happening on Terrestrial Television, but at the same time, I'm not really as I'm able to keep up to the minute on the things that interest me and not have to absorb all the crap that goes along with it, so although I had heard "The Circus of Horrors" had been on "Britain's got Talent", I have no idea how well they did, nor have I seen any of the footage as I didn't want to see anything that would perhaps be a spoiler for the January show that I booked tickets for last Summer... a long wait with itchy "wanna watch" fingers, but I kept it together and managed not to give into temptation.

I think this is the reason why, when we finally made it to the show, that we discovered only a handful of "people like us" with the majority of the audience being made up of your average looking person off the street, this confused us no end, until the show started then we realised that a mainstream audience expects mainstream kicks and *sigh* it was banal, we could only hope for better as the show went on.

But before I talk about that, I have to tell you of a couple of cool things that happened, unbeknown to us, we  "met" a couple of the cast prior to the show- I have to admit, I thought The Grand had gone all-out and dressed up a few of their staff in themed costumes for the night, so I had no idea that I was buying my programme from one of  "The Sinister Sisters" before heading to my seat, I told her I liked her outfit, she told me to "Enjoy the show" and away I went and not even the presence of ballet shoes on her feet made the penny drop for me until after the show began "Derp"!

Here she is (below) Pretty cool costume huh? Anyhoo, "The Sinister Sisters" are a ribbon, hoops and aerial acrobatics act, they are pretty good, but even our untrained eyes could see how they messed up a few times, perhaps because they were on a lot and for long periods of time, which we found pretty odd considering the diversity of acts that The Circus of Horrors have in their travelling troupe.

As for "The Programme" (photo above) - It's pretty,  I like it but it's mostly advertising, and not enough info on the performers and their abilities as I would have liked!

Stephanie 1 or 2 , either way, she sold us the programme!
Prior to sitting and watching "The Sinister Sisters" we were given directions to the seating area by another cast member, this time "Douglas Disorderly" who we also mistook for a member of Theatre staff dressed as a "Butler" or maybe even a large "Ventriloquist's Dummy" - and who spoke to us in an incredibly theatrical and O.T.T accent, which may or may not have been "Transylvanian".

When the show started, he jumped up on stage and sadly we began to realise that we may have been mistaken in our idea of what this show was going to be like.

As it transpired that his act consisted of nothing more than a string of needless bad language and visual jokes about homosexual sex - the rest of the audience seemed to love his "patter" and "japes" and laughed raucously throughout *sigh*, we couldn't wait for him to get off the stage!

We were pretty gutted, it was a bad start, a very bad start and later when he was on stage it was just in the guise of a stage hand; which is pretty weird as I saw in The Programme and in some Promo Shots that his act involves pyrotechnics and angle grinding to the genital region, not that I'm into that per se, but it does make pretty sparkles, and would have been a darn site more entertaining than what we got from him, also in The Programme he was photographed with a lit candle on top of his bald head; why neither of these "talents" were employed for this show I have no idea... instead he was I guess; The Circus Clown.

He sent Kristiantino - The Cabaret Singer, who it transpired, had a great voice and could really hold a tune, but seemed mostly pointless, into the audience to get a female "Volunteer" to help him contact the "spirit" of "The Devil Doll" what happened next, it pains me to have to write about... a woman got on stage, was taken into the wings and returned with the addition of having a "Ventriloquist's Dummy" style fake mouth mask attached to her chin and lower jaw, it had wires coming out of the back of it and it was blatantly obvious that the mouth was being opened and closed by Kristiantino who was standing next to her.


 This was supposed to have been done in time to the loud disembodied voice which boomed out, which we were supposed to find informative and hilarious at the same time, or so it seemed... All that really happened was Kristiantino was often out of synch with "The Voice of The Devil Doll" and "The Devil Doll" was insulting, used a lot of bad language and a string of "fart jokes", all to the delight of the rest of the audience, but for us, while we are not adverse to bad language, we are not the type of people who think that it's hilarious, except for when it is well timed - this sadly was a case of content rather than quality.

On the subject of KristiantinoShe was "The Girl in a Jar" at the start of the show, and "The Cabaret Singer" - The Programme informed me when I got home - she also has a great voice and gets her boobs out a few times - they appear to be made of silicon.

Another problem we had with this segment was - It didn't give us any background to the first part of the story or what had transpired in the previous tour, so for anyone who hadn't seen the show during that tour the story was not very well explained.

We felt it would have been so much better had they not had this banal attempt at humour? story telling? what the hell was that about? - and utilised the overhead projectors they had above the stage to show us a short "Sepia mini film" of the main points while the performers were getting ready or whatever instead.

The other problem was it was quite hard at times to hear the words to the songs Doktor Haze kept singing, which may or may not have been sung to give us an idea as to the story line or to move the story onto the next scene - the music was far too loud, as were his vocals- I thought it was only me as I am partially deaf, but Aaron also remarked on this and I read earlier in a review from last year, that I certainly am not the only one to have this problem, nor are Aaron and I the only previous audience members to feel that there wasn't a coherent story, which I have to say I found really sad as I kind of feel I may have enjoyed it more had that been the case.

I can't help feeling Doktor Haze wanted to be a Pop Star or Rock Musician, as a large portion of the show seemed to be dedicated to him singing - long songs, the lyrics of which we couldn't make out.

 He does have a good voice though, it's just not clear enough to project the words over the volume the band played at.

Kristiantino also sung a lot, but as she has a very clear vocal style none of her words were lost, they did not however, explain anything very much!

Another Clown or even Buffoon who appeared several times throughout the show, much to the delight of the audience (not us though) was the revolting (not in a good way) "The Great Dandini" aka "Captain Dan" revolting as his two acts (one in each of these incarnations) were just a string of penis related visual gags and at one point he did a not at all hilarious - for us anyway, everyone else loved it *another sigh* - "Trick" involving a hoover; which he attached to his penis, turned on and dragged it across the stage.

And the point of this was? Who the hell knows, for us it certainly wasn't humorous and to be honest, I can't think of a point in my life where I have ever thought it was a good idea or wanted to pay money to see a man with Dwarfism getting a blowy from a "Henry The Hoover"!

And on that subject "Henry The Hoover", was this just for the visual effect as it is a recognisable brand? as it sure as hell wasn't even invented and definitely wasn't on the market in 1927, Berlin, which was "The theme of the Show"?

And why did we need to be subjected to "The Great Dandini" / "Captain Dan's"  penis on numerous occasions prior to the Hoover incident? Well perhaps this was the "mystery" of the show!

He did however, do one cool thing with his penis later on, and that was lifting a 2 stone Bowling Ball, now that was pretty cool - but by that point in the show, we already didn't like him or want to see him again!

One other cool thing he did, as "Captain Dan" was to take a beer bottle, place it in his right eye socket, press down and wiggle it about a bit to remove the cap, a pretty neat trick to bear in mind, if you're ever too drunk to remember where you put your bottle opener, no not really, I don't advocate doing this at all, and like I said he had already gone way past annoying by that stage so that kind of took the edge off his "Trick" no end!

Getting back to the "Theme of the Show" - this was a very odd thing, it was apparently, as I've already mentioned, supposed to be set in 1927, in Berlin - in a Cabaret and running through this was a lot of references to "The Devil Doll" we found out when we got home, that this show is actually a sequel to the previous Tour (from last year) named "The Ventriloquist" aka "The Curse of The Devil Doll" which according to The Programme was given the second name "due to a series of bizarre and near fatal incidents that happened during the last tour". 

Perhaps this is why "The Theme" appeared to be non existent -They did at one point have a table and chairs set up on stage, where a few members of the cast sat and watched "Kristiantino" sing.

There were Acrobatics and Fire Limboing performed by "The Voodoo Warriors" who were very agile and never stopped moving, but while they were very good at what they did and entertaining too, they kept being wheeled out again and again to perform the same routine with just a tiny tweak here and there and they were given the majority of the performance time, with "The Sinister Sisters"  being a close second, or at least it seemed to us that this was the case.

 I have to mention one feat  performed, that really stood out during "The Sinister Sisters" act - in fact, it was pretty amazing. One of them took the strap in one hand and lifted the other into the air, while they were suspended above the stage, the second one changed position so that she lay sideways across the other's feet and there they hung in mid air for several minutes, supported only by the one-handed grip - before coming back down again to do something else...

How she even managed to stay on to her partner's toes, or the other one was able to hold her there, supporting her full weight, with just one hand, we have no idea!

A man in the row of seats in front of us, who was wearing a "Flasher Mac'" walked out, he'd seen all the bare breasts the show had to offer.

The other act which got a majority share, beside Kristiantino and Doktor Haze's songs, was Anastasia IV who's act is perhaps the most recognised as it is used in most of the promotional photographs and she is often seen performing as "The Hair Hanging Diva" on TV Spots also - So you've most likely seen her "Human Catherine Wheel"  before, for us the most amazing thing she did was...

 At one point she hung upside down and via her hair; she lifted one of "The Sinister Sisters" up into the air, who was holding on via her teeth - now that's gotta hurt!

Every so often, "The Devil Doll" was wheeled out in a large and very ornate armchair, where he sat watching the performers for the most part, but he did occasionally get up and walk around them whilst  turning his head and looking up into their faces from below... why? ... I have no idea!

"To the winch, Wench!" - Hannibal Hermerto attaching Anastsia IV

After the show, "Anastasia IV" was manning the merchandise stand and was happy to pose for Aaron to take a photograph of her.

She was also more than happy to have her picture taken with Aaron, and judging from his smile, he was happy about it too! I'm not at all sure what her hand gesture is about but it seems to be a theme with the members of the show that any photo' taken with an audience member must be accompanied by this hand gesture, still never mind, it's a nice memento none the less!

Hannibal Hermerto, (who is married to "Anastasia IV") was awesome, as we knew he would be!
He swallowed 3 swords at once at one point - he is the only person in The World who is able to do this!
Then he swallowed a hilt-less sword and even a  scimitar which was crazy seeing as it's curved and the human torso is not, but the craziest thing for me was when he lifted a huge slab of iron by attaching it to his septum piercing! - Now that was definitely more like what we expected ... and came to see!

Hannibal Hermerto mid -act. The guy in the background is Douglas Disorderly whom I mentioned earlier.
Hannibal Hermerto also does "suspensions" which I would love to have seen, in fact I'd love to do it myself , Aaron thinks I'm a total weirdo for wanting to try it - in case you don't know what I mean, it's when you have two or more "meat hooks" inserted into your back and attached to chains, which are then hoisted, so that your body is suspended in mid-air by just a few chunks of flesh on your back, and you dangle up there until someone lowers you back down again - don't ask me why I want to do this - I have no idea, I just love the idea of it so much!

Oh I forgot to add, he has 2000 year old Mammoth Ivory inserted into his mouth in the form of false teeth, Doktor Haze never told us why. His top 2 ribs have been removed, we had this proved to us, with the aid of the overhead projectors... but not explained, so it has become another thing I would have liked to have known about and he also has his tongue split, both tips of which move independently - that's always fun to watch!

Hannibal Hermerto going with the flow, or in this case the curve of the scimitar!

Another great act they had, who unfortunately wasn't utilised enough, was Jesus Chuy Aceves aka "The Wolf Boy". He's from Mexico and has a condition called Hypertrichosis, which causes hair to grow all over his face and according to The Programme, he "is the second person in his family to be born with this condition and is the first "Wolf Boy" to come to the UK and Ireland in over 20 years". 

Jesus Chuy Aceves aka "The Wolf Boy" placing a spoon into or pulling it out of his nose!

He was great but sadly he only did two things, the first was to insert and then extract a teaspoon into and back out of his nose as shown in the above photo, and the second was to walk barefoot up a set of steps made out of swords, which "Douglas Disorderly" with the help of a cucumber (and some very obvious penis jokes) showed us were incredibly sharp!
His act was very impressive as was Hannibal Hermerto's  but unfortunately they were both over too quickly, and in my opinion, they were not really given the reverence they deserved - partly by the majority of the audience, who really didn't seem to take to this kind of thing - and partly due to the fact that "Kristiantino" and "Doktor Haze" had a few more songs to get through...

 And of course we needed light relief in the preceding seconds from either "The Voodoo Warriors" plus and minus "Captain Dan" (all in Skeleton outfits) and"The Sinister Sisters".

At one point another audience member, this time a man was taken up onto the stage to be strapped into a chair with a black bag on his head and a peeled banana between his legs - crotch level of course-  prior to the bag he had "Kristiantino's" backside wiggled in his direction and once it was placed, he was supposed to be made horny - I guess?- by the mistaken belief that she had eaten the banana, when in fact it was  "The Great Dandini" who appeared on stage, just to do this, then run away quickly before "Douglas Disorderly" -  who, as the bag was lifted - simulated a "lap dance from behind" at the poor guy, whilst wearing silky black women's panties with fishnets underneath.

 In fairness to the poor guy,  I have to say, he was brilliant about it and turned the tables on "Douglas Disorderly" by grabbing him and well I'm sure you can guess the rest... and oh how the audience did laugh, while Aaron and I sat there straight faced and occasionally muttering angry words to one another!

There was a "Contortionist", he wasn't introduced and is not listed in The Programme, he did a few neat tricks, the creepiest of which was appearing to (or actually?) dislocating his shoulders one at a time.

 He folded his arms at weird angles, rolled himself into a ball and swung about, but mostly he was relegated to joining in with the acrobatics of the "Voodoo Warriors  or holding the ropes for the aerial acrobatics of "The Sinister Sisters" and "Anastasia IV".

We were promised the "Second Half"  would be "Darker"  by Doktor Haze, but for the most part it wasn't ... it was just more acrobatics and more "The Sinister Sisters" with some fire eating on his part, and some lady who just appeared from somewhere... then came "Micaela The Mighty - The Lady of The Sword"  and "Serhiy Slime" - who the hell thinks up these names?

 "Micaela The Mighty - The Lady of The Sword" as you can probably guess had a very big sword; it also turned out to be very sharp as she demonstrated by throwing it point down into the stage floor where it stuck - after she had finished balancing it - point down - on her forehead, whilst standing then moving to various positions until she was lying on her back and then standing back up again, without it even wobbling very much!

She then placed a dagger into her mouth, blade first and held it there for some time, head up before balancing the point of a sword on top of it and on top of that a lighted candelabra ... holding this; she climbed up and down the other side of a possibly "purpose built"  prop that had a metal stair-like centre and a large metal frame.

Then came "Serhiy Slime" who "Micaela The Mighty - The Lady of The Sword"  assisted after she had finished performing her own act...

He balanced on a board, which was placed on a cylinder on top of a table, after a while they added more cylinders and then they added something similar to a TV Dinner table, then another and another, and he effortlessly climbed all of them, until he was somewhere around 5 foot above the original table, all the while the cylinder was going back and forth - it was impressive ...

Until he started with those same hand signals, both his hands forming what he apparently thought was the  "666" or the "Sign of the Devil" hand signs - as used at Donnington circa 1992 ( I should know, I was there! ) but which these days, just seems to be used as a "code" for "Look at me I'm an idiot", as like so many other's before him "Anastasia IV" included, he formed the patterns with his fingers wrong *sigh* oh and he "Head Banged" at the same time *double sigh*!!

Then there came the dark part, I guess or maybe there was no dark? - On the behest of  "The Devil Doll"  to "Kill the Bitches"  in reference to "The Sinister Sisters"  for reasons which were not really made clear, Doktor Haze then set about "killing" them, his reason for immediately doing so was also not made clear and the first was placed in an Iron Maiden type device - complete with fake blood.

The second was "killed" by having her throat sawn into with a large knife, with accompanying fake blood and groans from the majority of the audience while I laughed!

This turned into a massive giggling fit for me when immediately afterwards Doktor Haze started singing a lament "What have I done...?" -  I'm still chuckling as I type!

My pictures are dodgy but I'm sure you get the gist from the text, anyway, the scene in the photo above was the start of my giggle fit. 

What happened next was just plain weird... "The Sinister Sisters" went from dead to standing in the wings and then moving slowly onto the stage, to join the rest of the troupe. 

 The person who was behind "The Devil Doll"  pulling the strings of all the acts and whatnot was revealed, then "punished" by Doktor Haze, with a saw and lots of blood, which sadly we didn't really get to revel in as the stage was lit quite dark for this and the "players" were all standing in way of the action!

Doktor Haze "had to be" executed by the rest of the cast - again for no apparent reason. After this as he "magically" reappeared - singing; in the aisle about 3 minutes after his "Execution/ Cremation" then everyone was introduced and bigged up and applauded, as was Swansea, and it was time to go home, but not before the punchline - which I won't tell you about in case you're a "Talent Show" watcher and are planning to go and see this.

As the audience left, Doktor Haze was waiting at the door to greet the audience, shake hands and thank everyone for coming, I have to say that is a lovely touch and the other cast members were also very friendly and personable.

Aaron took my picture with Doktor Haze - The Good Doktor pulled faces, for once I didn't - and we tried to hang about much to the chagrin of my parents who were waiting in the car park to take us home, as we really wanted to met Hannibal Hermerto, sadly though, we didn't get the opportunity.

In the foyer, "Kristiantino" walked past me, tapped the woman in front of me on the shoulder and apologised for attaching the "Ventriloquist Dummy's Mask"  to her face, we exchanged eye contact and she dithered for a few seconds, before walking away - I could have spoken to her, or vice versa - but by then I'd heard her sing loads and seen her breasts several more times than I ever wanted to, and I felt we really had already shared all we had to give with each other so what more was there to say?

There were a couple of drunk women roaring and attempting to sing from the confines of the Theatre Bar, and we got caught on our way to the "Back Stage Area" and ejected by Theatre Staff - who were obviously on to us - so it seemed had said drunk women also been "removed"...

We were lead to one of the exits and found ourselves in the road, with a horde of drunken women, shout-singing god knows what heading straight towards us.

Our plans to confuse them by pretending to be bits of the building did not work... and we were separated as Aaron was forcefully dragged into the middle of the road and wiggled at by some woman who apparently just wanted to dance.

 I on the other hand  found that hurtling towards me - as only a scantly clad and very large drunk woman shouting "Oomp Pah Pah" can - was one of the aforementioned Theatre Bar revellers, who was clearly under the misguided apprehension that she had just witnessed a production of  "Lionel Bart's Oliver" ...

 I felt a bear like grip as a chubby arm clamped itself around my neck and I was spun around like a spinning top... while being admonished by said drunk woman, for not "Oomping" or "Pah Pahing".

She then informed me... whilst apparently attempting to insert her entire head into my ear  that, she "Jusss ...  wanna ... sinhggah".

After the second rotation, I was released, my job whatever it was, had ended and I was free to scamper -or at least try too - towards the car before another horde came out of the darkness to assault us...

All in all it was not an unusual night in Swansea and not a bad one either!

The show was, as you can probably guess, a bit disappointing for us in parts.  Perhaps this is mostly our own fault for bigging it up in our own minds for all the years of wanting to go and see it or perhaps we should have acquainted ourselves with what to expect prior to going? ... but we made the mistake of doing that after booking our "Spamalot"  tickets and were terrified we were going to hate it, (as it turned out the videos we saw did not do it justice and we loved it and want to go again someday) - or maybe "The Circus of Horrors"  sold out a little for the sake of  bums-on-seats?

After all I don't think the show as it is now would get as much coverage in Bizarre Magazine judging by the "mainstream" content of the humour and the majority of the show which for the most part, was more like "The Circus of Circus"  with a bit of "Oooo"  thrown in...

 But at least now we've finally got to see it and we did enjoy quite a few of the acts, so it wasn't all bad, in fact it wasn't bad at all.

It just was not what we had expected, but that's the luck of the draw, I guess, would I recommend it?

Well I guess that depends on who's asking... If you like Fire-Eating, a lot of Acrobatics, Aerial Acrobatics, Hair Hanging, Sword Swallowing, Contortionists, Wolf Men, Balancers, Pyrotechnics, Musicals, Puerile Gags and Burlesque, I say: "What the hell go see it, you'll probably love it!"