It was after reading Memoirs of a Sword Swallower by Daniel P Mannix that the Bristol-born sword swallower Miss Behave (Amy Saunders) found her calling. Now, she is one of the few female sword-swallowers in the world and was a Guinness world record holder, having gulped six swords in 2000.
Natasha Veruschka is now the women's record-holder – she managed 13 swords at once in 2004 – but Miss Behave is undaunted. "I taught myself sword-swallowing 13 years ago," she says. She models herself on Betty Boop, wearing skin-tight rubber dresses and red high heels, and she describes her performance as "high camp clowning". She will also "twiddle a beautiful rose through my tongue" and "swallow a table leg" in her act.
"I use a 2ft-long Spanish court sword, and it passes down the esophagus into the stomach. It's the same route that food passes down," she says. "To learn sword-swallowing, you have to overcome the gag reflex. The body has a marvellous defence system that says 'no', because obviously it is not food and it is protecting itself. It takes a long time to get over that. It took me three years."
Now Miss Behave, who was MC of the Edinburgh hit show La Clique, is hosting a variety programme at the Roundhouse in London, which will be transformed into an intimate cabaret-style environment for the event.
The special guests will include Marjo, a member of the 7 Fingers acrobat team, who does an aerial and contortion number; Frank Sanazi, who sings in the style of Sinatra with a twist of Hitler; Kalki, a hula-hoop artist; the pyrotechnic Lucifire, who manipulates flame; Spymonkey, the physical-comedy stars who were head clowns for Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity for two years; and Bret Pfister from the Circus Knie in Germany, who does an aerial hoop act.
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