Review: The Circus of Horrors, St David’s Hall

The Circus of Horrors, Wednesday 22nd March, St David’s Hall, Reviewer: Mel Lynch

Despite forming in 1995 The Circus of Horrors’ first rose to celebrity status after performing on Britain’s Got Talent in 2011. Initially I thought I had some idea about what to expect. However, upon seeing the shows promotional t-shirts which read ‘Keep calm or fuck off’ I started to fear for what I was getting myself into.

Their nineteen stop UK tour The Never-Ending Nightmare marks the groups 21st anniversary as performers, where since their beginnings they annually play over 100 UK theatres in addition to expanding to festivals throughout the world. At their show at the St David’s Hall there was a surprising variety of audience members, from reluctant teenagers to elderly Goths. The Circus of Horrors is far from what you’d expect of conventional theatre. As the lights a went down a voice boomed to the audience warning to leave if of the chav persuasion or prudish, which set the tone for the rest of the evening.

In all honesty the first half set the show off to a somewhat average and underwhelming start. Awkwardly long drawn out skits infrequently displaying the evident skill of the performers made the opening scenes uncomfortable to watch. A particularly questionable performance came from ‘Captain Dan’ the Dwarf, who proceeded to insert his penis into a Henry Hoover and wandered around the stage with it in tow using the power of the suction. Whilst fitting into the category of bizarre and horror made me question if I was actually enjoying myself at that point. Nevertheless, the aerial silk gymnasts which descended just before the interval were stunning, giving near perfect performances leaving the audience in awe.

It has to be said the second half truly redeemed the performance. Whilst still continuing their brand of loud, brash and crude humour, the performers finally started to showcase their impressive talents. Stand out performers had to be the four dynamic gymnasts known as the tribe, their energy on stage lifted the performance creating a new electric atmosphere in the room, introducing each act with vigour. The second half also introduced the usage of pyrotechnics, taking the tricks to another level, which received a welcoming reception from the audience. The live band did add to the pageantry of it all, whilst the heavy metal music was not to my taste, it was clear many of the audience members were all for it. Ringleader Dr. Haze also appeared to be a crowd pleaser wandering on occasionally to scream and swear at the crowd, somewhat cringe but his strange enthusiasm could not be faulted.

An initial thought I had upon exiting the theatre was how the performance felt like a desperately stretched out version of their Britain’s Got Talent audition. The performers were exceptionally talented however the filler songs and attempt at a narrative in many ways fell flat in my opinion. That being said, simultaneously I could see that the majority of the viewers were enthralled and loved the dirty jokes delivered by Haze. Therefore, despite it not being to my usual tastes I can appreciate why it is such a hit to other demographics. The random nudity did feel a tad unnecessary and irrelevant but I imagine it is part of the charm to many fans.

The Circus of Horrors definitely isn’t for everyone, the sound quality was substandard and a number of their jokes fell flat. However, Cardiff was loving it and the cast left the stage with roaring applause, the performers are clearly all exceptional at what they do. The show is not for the faint hearted or prudish but I would recommend it if you’re looking for abnormal yet mostly entertaining way to spend the evening.

by Mel Lynch