EVEN before the show begins you have to be on your guard with a few of strange characters wandering in the audience.
Unfortunately the guy sat directly in front of me had perhaps spent too long getting his spiky blond hair just right for his night out – only for a French hunchback to put it right for him with a generous handful of spit.
A 1920s theatre was perhaps the ideal setting for the Scarborough return of the Circus of Horrors’ darkly Gothic take on the freak show.
After a few warm up tricks from our hunchback friend we are transported to a Parisian asylum where the lunatics eventually take control.
The acts included a man, looking like a demented extra from Mad Max, putting a hook through his nose and a woman acrobat spinning through the air suspended only by her hair.
The cast needs to travel to Mexico for the Day Of The Dead to resurrect some of their deceased colleagues.
Highlights included a dwarf doctor engaging in some electric trickery – complete with Carry On-style nurses – and a troupe of Aztec warriors limbo dancing under fire.
After a short interval the story moves onto London, circa 1900, for a Victorian freak show – including knife throwing, a contortionist inside a bottle and sword swallowing.
Unfortunately the show’s ringmaster, Dr Haze, convincingly murders a young woman by slashing her throat and the action takes on a cyberpunk twist in the year 2020 where his undead victim seeks her revenge.
The finale included a contortionist firing a bow and arrow with her feet, tricks with bullwhips and more knife throwing.
The larger illusions were well performed and the band, The Interceptors From Hell, provided a suitably manic musical backdrop.
And the irony of the current smoking ban, where performers can eat flaming torches but are prevented from smoking a cigarette on stage, was well and truly hammered home.
The blood drenched show was a curious blend of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the stage theatrics of Alice Cooper and some of the stunts genuinely made me wince – I will never hear the Johnny Cash track, Ring Of Fire, in quite the same way again. If you get a chance see the Circus of Horrors because it is a scream.