Circus of Horrors returns to terrify you

Fifteen years since first trampling the bloody boards, Dr Haze and his motley crew of freaks and oddities are back to drag circuses screaming and shouting into the 21st century. Entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE spoke to the undead ringmaster about the horrors laying in wait.

THE Circus of Horrors is like Cirque Du Soleil directed by Quentin Tarantino and Alice Cooper’s mutant love child.

Having achieved cult status around the world, the revamped rocking, shocking show returns to the Ipswich Regent with The 4 Chapters From Hell.

From a French asylum over-run by its inmates and Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations to Victorian London and the far future, resurrected ringleader Dr Haze and his cavalcade of chaos contain some of the greatest, most bizarre and beautiful circus acts on Earth.

I won’t give away the story, but expect daredevil flying trapeze, a vampiric crow woman hanging in the air by her hair, whirlwind roller skaters, sword swallowers, pickled and mind-bending bendy people, voodoo warriors and knife throwers.

There are no collapsing clown cars here; unless they’ve been napalmed first.

“There are a lot of moments of real beauty, really fantastic cultural acts that are absolutely fabulous. Some of them are the sort of thing you’d see in Cirque Du Soleil, but of course this has been done without any safety nets and to rock music so it’s a lot more circus on the edge really,” says the good doctor.

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“We always try to do something different and we have to be careful because it’s a bit like going to see your favourite band, if they don’t play your favourite songs you’re going to be a bit ****ed off.

“So we thought we’d do a greatest hits. People are turning up in their droves and loving the new show. There’s loads of different things; stuff we’ve done before, stuff we haven’t done for years and then new bits.

“We’ve got a brilliant contortionist who does a whole act and then at the end gets an arrow, a long bow and then fires it while contorted into a target.

“We’ve a sword swallower who, when you think ‘God this can’t get any better or worse’, attaches an electric drill to a sword and swallows it,” laughs Haze, who was brought up in the circus.

“My dad left me and my mum when I was less than six-months-old. The circus people were very kind and looked after us until the end of the season,” he remembers.

“When I was 11 I met him for the first time at Euston station and within weeks he got us a job in a circus in Ireland as fire-eaters and fakirs, which is where you walk on broken glass and lie on a bed of nails and everything.

“I’d never done any of this. He got me and mum a job on the pretence I was a world class fire-eater; my mum wouldn’t even let me light a match much less fire eat. Somehow I had to learn how to do it in a day and there I was that evening performing in front of 500-600 people.

“From that day I decided circus life was for me and I had sawdust in my veins so decided to stay,” says Haze, who flirted with rock n roll in his 20s; supporting hit acts such as Depeche Mode and Gary Glitter.

“He [Glitter] always seemed a nice guy to us, you know? He looked after us and there was never any problems. Obviously there’s a more sinister side that nobody realised about at the time,” Haze points out.

He now fronts Dr Haze and The Interceptors From Hell, who provide the music for the circus and have released three albums - one of which includes Suffolk’s own Dani Filth from Cradle of Filth.

Haze remembers the band always had a theatrical side, which he puts down to his upbringing, and around the early 90s he started calling the show the circus of horrors while gigging at universities and rock clubs.

Today’s Circus of Horrors was born in 1995 after a chance meeting, ironically at a funeral, between him and circus impresario Gerry Cottle; making its debut at that year’s Glastonbury Festival.

It took its inspiration from other alternative circuses who were swapping their elephants and horses for forklift trucks and motorbikes.

Since then they’ve performed at major venues and festivals around the world, on TV and last year appeared alongside Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden and Motley Crue.

“The Cirque Du Soleil really cornered the market for the upper class if you like, the people who go to the Royal Albert Hall to see their circus. We wanted something a bit more rock n roll, a bit more Ipswich Town as opposed to Manchester United; something a bit more real that real people can afford to see and really love,” says Haze.

“I think people have always got this psychological outlet that they like to be scared and know they won’t be harmed so that’s exactly what we do,” he laughs sinisterly.

Roll up, roll up for The Circus of Horrors at Ipswich’s Regent Theatre on March 18.