Last weekend The Circus of Horrors came to the London Coronet with their Night of the Zombie show and proved they still have what it takes to thrill, chill and excite audiences with their lurid and audacious brand of entertainment.
Circus of Horrors is a successful troupe having been in business for over 20 years. This year they’ve toured all over the UK playing 100 dates. They can boast of international success too with tours of Helsinki, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, Next year they make a return trip to Japan.
If you haven’t seen them live you might have seen them on Britain’s Got Talent where they wowed the buzzer-happy panel. The Circus of Horrors has had its fair share of mainstream recognition. They’ve had a cameo in TV Show London’s Burning and even appeared on Ross Lee’s Ghoulies, on Nickelodeon. But those are always toned down performances. Seeing them in the flesh is an altogether different experience.
The show begins with Ringmaster Dr Haze who’s also the creator of the show. He sings and has a surprisingly powerful voice. The Dr is a real rock and roller, welcoming a cohort of sexy burlesque dancers onto the stage where they writhe seductively on podiums. After this loud and theatrical overture he introduces the first act.
The Voodoo Warriors, an African acrobatic troupe, perform energetic somersaults and backflips, leaping over each other and building to a finale in which they form a precarious human tower.
Hannibal Clem Hellmurto then takes centre stage performing the traditional daredevil stunt of sword and skewer swallowing. But it doesn’t stop there as he also performs the incredibly risky stunt of swallowing a glass neon tube.
Captain Dan, a dwarf, amuses the audience with various stunts such as flashing his willy from beneath his Scottish kilt then hanging a cannon ball from his penis. His final act, his most famous apparently, involves a hoover. It leaves little to the imagination.
Other spectacles include Camp Dracula who encourages members of the audience to join him in his fun and games on stage. A zombie-themed trapeze act follows and a contemporary ballet routine is both weird and elegant. Perhaps there should be an all-zombie ballet at the Royal Opera House.
Asia performs an impressive fire-eating act before finally setting alight a piece of rope that the Zombie Warriors use in a daring skipping routine.
At the after show party I spent some time with Dr Haze who explains how the Circus of Horrors tries to keep its show fresh:
‘We change the theme of the show every year now. Next year we’re taking it right back to the freak show as it’ll be our 21st anniversary. We’re going to have all the big freaks again from years back. It’ll start next year October and run for a year and a half. Generally we tend to do a different show each year because we get a lot of the same people coming and we like to give them something new. But you can’t change everything. It’s a bit like if you see a rock band and they don’t play your favourite songs, you’d be a bit pissed off so what we try and do is give them some of their favourite acts but change them slightly and then add new acts in.’
The Circus of Horrors is already preparing for their Freak Show tour and some notable freaks (I’m well aware of the politically incorrect terminology but these are their words not mine) were amongst the audience at the Coronet on Sunday.
‘You’ve got Goliath the Giant who’s about 7’ 7”, Zamora the Torture King who’s really well known. He was with Jim Rose around 24 years ago when Jim Rose first toured the UK on his Lollapalooza tour with Perry Farrell.’
‘In January we have some unique acts in England for the first time. We brought a Wolf Boy over a few years ago. It was the first time there’d been a Wolf Boy in the UK for 30 years. We have another big freak coming to the UK very soon,’ Dr Haze said as if listing the cast for American Horror Story.
Like any circus acts tend to become family. They live, work and tour together. They stay in each other’s company too long to be anything other than close. Losing old acts and gaining new ones is always an emotional time. But the show needs to stay fresh.
‘80% of performers stay on year on year and we tend to change about 20% each year so we always need to add new blood and we keep doing that all the time,’ says Dr Haze.
At this point in our conversation Torture King Zamora approaches us. He’s a very calm and humble character and a legendary fakir who’s had a successful career in Las Vegas and starred in Death Wish Live a stunt series for E4. He too will be working with The Circus of Horrors soon.
‘A lot of people want to join the Circus of Horrors and it’s one of the biggest freak shows in the world, but we don’t just have freaks. We incorporate it with great acts, some of the performers were in the Cirque du Soliel, the Adagio act for example, they left the Cirque de Soliel in Vegas to join the Circus of Horrors,’ says Doctor Haze.
‘We’re getting all these freaks from all over the world wanting to come to England and work with us because it’s now a big recognised brand and they know that we’re turning into a 21st century art. I think people’s perception of people doing weird things has changed and consequently we get a lot of people wanting to see these amazing freaks,’ Dr Haze explains.
At the party a fakir called The Mongolian Laughing Boy could be seen on the dance floor taunting people with the skewers that pierced his face and challenging party-goers to pull them out. It seems like the show is never over at The Circus of Horrors.
For more information on The Circus of Horrors UK tour dates you can take a look on their website here. Their next big show is in Glasgow.
Dr Haze has an album which features many of the songs performed on the tour. Check it out here circus fans.