Leave the clowning to us says Circus of Horrors’ ringmaster ahead of Felixstower Spa Pavilion show
- Credit: Archant
The only place for scary clowns is on stage says Circus of Horror’s evil ringmaster Dr John Haze.
“You don’t want to go round terrorising people, what’s the point of that,” asks the creator of the alternative circus troupe, rolling up at Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion on October 25 with new show The Never Ending Nightmare.
“Last year we introduced killer clowns, people say it started in America but it started with us. We keep it within the confines of the circus. If you want to scare people who want to be scared; people who go on the roller-coasters, who watch horror movies, see Circus of Horrors, that’s fine. But using a clown guise to scare unsuspecting people is clearly wrong.”
Spotting a gap in the market, the circus first performed at Glastonbury 21 years ago.
“Horror is a passion of mine. I thought if you chuck that, circus art, which people love, and rock music into the melting pot you’re likely to get a really good show and I believe that’s what we’ve done. We don’t have a big, heavy storyline. We’ve tried that before and found it goes over people’s heads. So it’s more a theme,” says Haze, whose job it is to control the chaos around him.
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The show, with its forked tongue firmly in cheek, now plays to more than 100 UK theatres each year and tours the world. The first UK circus to perform in Russia, it’s the only circus to reach the finals of Britain’s Got Talent and the first circus to perform in London’s West End for more than 100 years.
“I thought it wouldn’t last 21 weeks, let alone 21 years so it’s been quite a pleasant surprise really,” he laughs.
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There have been many memorable moments over that time. While not common, when accidents happen they tend to be bizarre.
“Probably the most famous one was when Captain Dan broke his Henry Hoover the night before. He tried to repair it with superglue but didn’t read the label properly. He thought it said leave for 20 seconds. It actually said leave for 20 minutes. He put his ‘wee man’ inside it to practice his act and got stuck. We ended up taking him to A&E in Edinburgh. It was front page news on lots of newspapers. The Sun did a little series about him for days, he was spoken about in the House of Commons and they even made a TV show about it.”
There have been a couple of bad ones, most memorably sword swallower Hannibal Hellmurtos who cut a whole in his oesophagus. He split it further one Halloween a couple of years later while swallowing a neon tube - the most dangerous thing any sword swallower can attempt because of the electricity powering it and the poisonous fluid inside.
“It was a bit too wide. Although his throat was wide enough, as it got further down his oesophagus narrowed. We took him to hospital and his stomach acid was rising, seeping through the hole and going round his lung and his heart. They had to put him in an induced coma, leave him intensive care for a few days and drain the stomach acid. They didn’t want to operate because it was inside him.
“He was back within six months and is back this year. Funny things happen every day of the week because we’re dealing with so many unusual characters. People do crazy things and you just take it in your stride and carry on really.”
Haze and his team switch things up every year to keep the show fresh, with a new contortionist and aerialist joining them this year. It’s a bit like seeing your favourite band he says, with people still wanting to see the “hits”, so expect to see some familiar faces albeit doing some new things.
This year’s theme in Alice in Horror Land, playing on people’s phobias.
“The idea behind our clowns was to remove a lot of the phobias about them. I got emails, messages on social media saying ‘I’m not coming because I’m scared of them’. We carried on and got more rather then less people come, maybe under duress, maybe because of the intrigue of it.
“I thought ‘this is great, let’s get right inside people’s brains and all the stuff that really scares them - water, getting married, clowns, dogs’. Whatever your nightmare happens to be, it’s going to be covered in this year’s Circus Of Horrors.”
The show will, as usual, include the most bizarre and beautiful acts including a sword swallower who ingests everything from a chair leg and curved cutlasses to a saw and umbrella. Demon dwarf Captain Dan is up to his usual shenanigans, there’s a Guinness Book of World Records hair-culean who swings around the audience suspended only by her hair...
There will also be original music from the troupe’s recently released fourth album, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and some nice covers.
“We’re at the Spa during Halloween and the kids’ holidays so it’s perfect. It’s the sort of show you would normally only see on your TV screens now. There’s only 80 sword swallowers in the whole world so to get the chance to see one a few feet in front of you is great, it’s the same with all the acts. Rather than watch it on your TV, come and see it for real; I guarantee you’ll have a great time.”