The Examiner’s KATIE CAMPLING reports on a night of bizarre entertainment...
HUDDERSFIELD got a taste of the weird, wonderful and downright bizarre when the Circus of Horrors came to town.
Huddersfield Town Hall played host to the outrageous troupe of artists.
But there were no clowns, candyfloss and cute animals at this circus. It was strictly entertainment for adults, with acts aiming to shock as well as entertain.
Commanding the circus was ‘undead’ ringmaster Dr Haze, a rock singer with a circus background.
He created the Circus of Horrors in 1994, with famous circus promoter Gerry Cottle. The acts were originally a backdrop to Doktor Haze and his band, the Interceptors of Hell, but now both form equal parts of the extravaganza.
Circus of Horrors toured at festivals for the first six years, before morphing into a stage show in 2000.
They wowed crowds for seven years with their Evilution tour, which was set in the 18th century and told the story of a young, innocent girl who ran away to the circus – only to find it was run by vampires and monsters.
But it was the circus’s new show, The Asylum, that they brought to Huddersfield.
Like Evilution, it has its roots in burlesque and the freak show aspect of circuses in the 1700s.
As the name suggests the show is set in a dilapidated sanatorium in Paris, which has been taken over by its evil, lunatic inmates.
The show opened with a grisly tableau of writhing inmates and torturous-looking machinery – including a female contortionist squashed into a jar so small you felt claustrophobic just looking at it.
Then, rising in chains from a tank of water, a male gymnast performed an aerial routine which was an impressive feat of both strength and control.
In the show that followed the audience was treated to more aerial and balancing feats from two female gymnasts, an incredible hula-hoop dancer and an acrobatic display by Zulu-style warriors.
There was a sword-swallower who made the audience cringe as he pierced his cheeks with needles and the amazing Gary Stretch, whose act involves stretching his skin away from his lanky body in bizarre fashions.
He pulled out two hesitant audience volunteers to hold his stretched-out skin, so he could clip it to other areas of his body.
It was Stretch who provided much of the comedy value, along with dwarf Demon Dan. Wearing a mad professor’s outfit, Dan performed light-hearted tricks, including pulling a Henry vacuum cleaner along by his nether regions and holding a flare in his bottom to the tune of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire.
It was a varied audience who turned out – from teenagers to grandmothers – but all seemed delighted by the spectacle and clapped as they were shocked, sometimes insulted and occasionally spattered with blood.
It was the circus’s second visit to Huddersfield and the performers – and the crowd – are sure to be back for more.