All eyes on me in the centre of the ring...
It's not Britney, bitch. But it is a circus.
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The circus is in town - but please don’t go to the Roundhouse expecting clowns, lions and bikers cart-wheeling through the sky. Professor Vanessa’s Wondershow is all about paying homage to the travelling circuses of the 1930s - 50s as it re-creates the original sideshows from these times gone by.
Around 7.30pm the audience are ushered into the main space which homes the centre stage surrounded by the circle of sideshows. Our host for the evening is Miss Behave who reveals that Professor Vanessa, founder of the Wondershow is originally from Blackpool. Now with the name, heavy make-up and the glittery hat accompanied by the seven inch glittery heels you might question whether Miss Behave is indeed a drag queen. However it soon becomes apparent that Miss B is all woman (a feisty one at that) she reminds us of a cross between Liz McDonald and Liza Minnelli. With the introduction over the sideshows come to life with excitable circus workers calling the audience into the different shows. Quite like the 90s children’s show Zzzap!
Our first stop was to visit The Headless Lady – her introduction from the camp doctor was very cheeky and full of innuendo. Being honest after her reveal we thought it was a bit of an anti-climax because it wasn’t too difficult to work out how the illusion was achieved. Then dawned on us that this set the bar for the kind of humour and entertainment that was going to be used throughout the night. The sideshows are meant to be taken with a pinch of salt, the performers are laughing at themselves and they want you to come and laugh along with them.
The next destination was to visit The Butterfly Girl, but not before a quick parade around the main stage from what can only be described as giant flies and freaks. One of the giant flies ran into the audience and started harassing the woman stood next to us, needless to say we kept our masculinity in tact by doing a little scream and running away. As Miss Behave mingles with the crowd and even gives us a cheeky little stroke on the shoulder we entered the sideshow of the half girl, half butterfly. With more innuendos from host John, the butterfly girl is revealed and as she stares from her perch the males in the audience are warned not to be taken in by her “passion”. Unlikely.
Next stop - The Girl In The Fishbowl. Waiting in line we're entertained with trapeze artists and tightrope walkers around the main stage. Cleo is the girl who lives in the fishbowl, she can’t hear us but she can see us apparently, but again all is not what it seems. We are told she breaths through her skin that’s why she has to wear a skimpy bikini. The Mummy was our favourite sideshow even though it was slightly terrifying. We are invited to see an Egyptian Princess become mummified right before our very eyes. Not giving too much away it doesn’t exactly go according to plan so get ready to run.
As the audience are mid-way through their vintage circus experience, the lights dim, the sideshows stop and the Latin parade beings. Marawa the amazing leads the colourful parade along with uber camp Fernando and an army of giant grasshoppers. Marawa takes centre stage holding hula-hoops for the grasshoppers to jump, well basically climb through. An audience member jokingly shouts out “how do they do it?” Thinking that this is going to be another take-with-a-pinch-of-salt affair Marawa goes solo as she impressively hulas up to about 25 hoops at once whilst slamming down her blue sparkly stilettos.
Next Fernando goes solo, as he climbs the swing he shamelessly and hilariously flirts with the older male members of the audience by winking and seductively waving at them. “Thanks honey I came for you” he even told one uncomfortable onlooker. As we watched him in the air we couldn’t decide what was more impressive, his one handed moves on the swing or his extremely noticeable bulge through the colourful lyrca. Either way it was entertaining and even though he didn’t pull off the end trick the audience still applauded and forgave because he’s so adorable.
Miss Behave takes centre stage and announces that this will be our final chance to watch a sideshow. We make a quick dash to The Half Living Lady and are pleased with our choice as the gin soaked, potty-mouthed Gloria had us in stitches. She’s half a lady with a full personality as she flirts with audience members and deliberately defies the host. Probably our second favourite sideshow after The Mummy.
The two-hour show flew by and it’s time for the conclusion on the main stage – two ballet dancers gyrating around a hoop. Now it is a good job their swinging looked elegant and beautiful because if not then it basically looked like they were scissoring. As it draws to a close the audience are left wanting to stay in Professor Vanessa’s world but sadly Miss Behave has left, the penny arcade stops and it’s time to go back to the real world.
Roundhouse CircusFest 2012 Website.
Words: Ben Spence