Circus of Horrors: The Four Chapters From Hell | New Theatre, Oxford | 9th Feb 2011
Wow, what a show. If the publicity made you expect something like the Jim Rose Circus (of freaks), well, you weren't wrong. There were definitely 'freaks', ranging from the bendiest contortionist I have EVER seen, to a hard-core punk dwarf with some unusual bowling-related endurance skills, to a grinning, almost naked human pin cushion (from Greater Leys). This is circus of the extreme, and whilst it's not for the faint hearted or those scared by human body parts, it nevertheless comes wrapped in the comforting, old-fashioned blanket of hammed-up circus showmanship - the live rock musical format being the icing on the slightly cheese-flavoured cake. There's something reassuringly levelling about realising that the glorious girl pirouetting mid-air above the stage suspended from her hair is the same friendly girl from the foyet's merch stand.
Circuses are often described as being like families, and they usually run in families too. Looking like Robson Green crossed with all of Kiss, MC/Ringmaster 'Dr Haze' is allegedly the son of a fire eater, and after a sojourn into rock n roll, he returned to the fold (at Glastonbury 1995 no less) with a show that feels more like one heck of an Ozzy Ozbourne tour than a traditional circus. Admittedly, there is the usual bit of clowning filler which makes the show drag at times, and like most circus shows, it could do with knocking half an hour off its length (and they could do with sorting their sound out so you can hear the female singer above the excellent live rock band). But it's certain you won't feel short-changed here; there's so much variety it would be impossible to mention every act, and your eyes will be popping out of your head with regularity. (Never have I so strongly wanted to shout out to an unwilling audience participant 'DON'T PUT THAT HAND IN YOUR MOUTH!'.)
This is NOT a kids show, but if you're a goth, a rock fan, a freak, a Bizarre mag reader, a Puppetry of the Penis fan, a voyeur, a tattooed lady or just a bit of a joker, this show is definitely worth a punt.
Their current UK tour lasts til mid May - find dates and locations at http://www.circusofhorrors.co.uk/tour_dates.html