Preview: Circus: Beyond the big top

The Circus of Horrors

The Roundhouse, London

There will be no sad-eyed clowns, flopping over on the same jokes. Nor will there be heart-tugging circus animals who suffer for the audience. But not everything has changed - as the age-old tradition of suffering for your art is alive and well in the Circus of Horrors.

Its director, Pierrot Bidon, was the mastermind behind Archaos circus. "I was very tired of the traditional circus," he says. "It was very boring and only for children, so I wanted to reinvent it so that everyone else would find it exciting." Both Archaos and Circus of Horrors have brought traditional big top and animal tricks into the Nineties with combinations of dance, music and performance balanced precariously on tight-ropes, ramps and impossible contraptions.

Circus of Horrors is set in a disintegrating world presided over by the crazy Dr Haze who goes through various nasty experiences with the aid of Black and Deckers, infernos of flame, amputated limbs and flesh-eating orgies.

Horrors include the direct descendent of Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula), who will hang upside down from her waist-length hair and Sakir, who has worn a corset for the past six months to reduce his waist from 32 to 18 inches. A girl who can fit herself into a bottle adds to the raw, uninhibited, sexually charged action, backed by a live rock soundtrack from The X-Factor and Psycho String Orchestra.

Forget the shlock-shock of tricksters Penn and Teller - this is real danger: Vlad's descendant has been told that her trick can only be done for three years, otherwise she risks going blind and Sakir's stomach and lungs have been displaced upwards (eek).

Circus of Horrors is swiftly becoming as popular as Archaos. "It is the fashion of the moment," says Boudin, and he's got plenty more tricks up his sleeve.

Chalk Farm Road, London NW1. Booking: 0171-267 0007

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