Circus of Horrors - London After Midnight
sexy, scaring and funny all at once, this is grown up theatre for adults
Darlington Civic theatre is one of the oldest and most vibrant theatres in the North East and has played a huge range of shows, events and performances BUT I defy anyone to have EVER been and seen a show as bizarre, diverse, shocking, surprising and funny as The Circus of Horrors. In our current climate of nanny state, over sensitive PC do-gooders, it was like a shot of adrenaline straight into the main vein to be treated like an adult. True, there were disclaimers before the show started, but even these had a forked tongue-in-cheek approach and added to the anarchic build up of the show which included much scream provoking before the first beat.
Circus of Horrors is not a new concept - the show has been running in a variety of guises for over 18 years and recently spent 8 weeks residing in London. Now, on a UK tour, they are bringing their blend of heavy rock, blood and body parts to the unsuspecting regions. The premise of this show is a tour with evil Doctor Haze of 1665/1666 London and some of the capital's worst places in history - worst for the foul, depraved, degenerate practises that history tells us actually did happen - Cheapside, Bankside, Bedlam are all covered along with demented doctors, possessed priests and ghostly girls.
Make no mistake, underneath this macabre mayhem beats the heart of circus perfection with many acts displaying world class performances rarely seen outside of Shanghai or Vegas; a sword swallower who has remodelled his body to aid his swallowing techniques; a contortionist whose bone crunching joint manipulating was the perfect physical embodiment for a possessed inmate of Bedlam; death defying high wire and swing 'twins' and an acrobatic team who literally throw themselves around the stage. There are elements of true humour, all be them in a very adult vein, some of which prompted a collective sharp intake of breath but this is what is so refreshing - we were all adults watching an adult show designed for adults and no apologies for it.
What is most impressive about Circus of Horrors is that this is not simply a one-after-the-other come on stage, perform and then leave show - the choreography and stage design keeps the seedy underbelly of 17th century London right to the fore and many times there are multiple acts all performing on stage together, blending into the telling of a story of horror, death and madness.
The constant heavy rock music, which created an almost trance-like feeling, ensured that the show enveloped the audience in a cocoon of twisted consciousness, rising and falling as one like some perverted scene from a Ken Russell movie.
Plenty of fire, certainly a lot of danger and no shortage of flesh, the show left me hating myself for wanting more, more, more.
Circus of Horrors, London after Midnight, is on tour around the UK with more details available here - http://www.circusofhorrors.co.uk/tour_dates.html