Best Beloved warned me before we left last night that whilst the Jim Rose Circus was fun, it wasn't a pinch on the now-defunct Happy Sideshow, which I managed to catch at Woodford a couple of years ago. [Woops, got the HS link wrong for most of today. Fixed now.]
It was all good fun, of course. We had pizza and beer beforehand at my place, looked at BB's extensive collection of books and ephemera on freaks through the ages, and then toddled down the Canberra Theatre. (I was in complete fluff mode -- BB and I decided to ride our bikes, then just as I was walking out the door I remembered that my bike was at the bike shop! Argh. End of a LONG week. Luckily our babysitter had brought his bike and was about my size, so he rescued the day.)
The crowd was obviously not the type that would attend the ballet. Lots of black clothes, blonde hair, piercings, lots of men with shaved heads and facial hair, including Zoe's partner. BB said it looked like the crowd that attended the Chopper Reed Tour. One thing I did notice was the relative busyness of the alcohol bar
compared with the boredom of the man serving coffee and cake:
I guess he does well on ballet nights.
We weren't allowed to take photos duing the show. I'm sure I could have snuck some, but I was too busy laughing. Jim Rose is a cracker, and the backbone of the show. His patter is unceasing, and keeps you in stitches. With him was Bebe the circus queen, who does a bit of angle-grinding over her pubic region and sitting in a vaccuum-sealed bag holding her breath for a reasonably long time (I held my breath comfortably for the same time as she did it, which spoiled it a bit for me). Also Mr Lifto! Who can still do some pretty awesome things, but is definitely getting past his prime. He can lift great weights with his ears and nipples, but his old trick of lifting with his penis is over, with his poor old pecker in a serious splint and looking quite painful.
Amber Pie the porn queen was pretty good, having a tug-of-war with Mr Lifto between his penis and her vagina, but as mentioned above, he's having a bit of trouble with his bits, so it wasn't a very serious stouch. She apparently threw the blue condom, but O and I think it was an audience plant who 'caught' it -- he looked quite comfortable, and extremely creepy and sleazy. I suspect he was their road manager. I snuck this photo:
Did he get up in anyone else's show?
The best acts of the night were Rupert [Rufus? damn my memory] and Big Mak. R was the sort of guy who can swallow objects, regurgitate, stick his penis in a racoon trap, and blalance a working lawnmower on his chin while the audience throws heads of lettuce at it to see them get chopped up. he was excellent.
Big Mak was Jim Rose's answer to other shows taking his idea of people contorting through tennis racquets (something Captain Frodo of the Happy Sideshow, now in Circus Oz, excels at). Big Mak is the world's fattest contortionist. He passed his body through a hula hoop, not from top to bottom, but from front to back. Halfway through he stopped, with Jim announcing that we were watching 'a quarter of a ton of camel-toe'. Heh.
Best Beloved had a great time. They explained how to insert a spoon fully into your nose, in a complete reversal of the 'don't do this at home kids' philosophy. He's got plans to try it today, and keep practising until he can gross out the nephews and nieces at Christmas. He also had his photo taken with Big Mak after the show:
BB is a very shy man, so I've preserved his dignity somewhat with a brown paper bag (which he always mentally wishes he has in photos).
I came out understanding why BB thought The Happy Sideshow was a better gig. They were inspired by the JRC, but they made it into a tighter, funkier, sexier show. The JRC, last night, just stood on a stage with no frills and mucked around. Jim Rose pulls it together with his wit and sass. The Happy Sideshow used to have loud, pulsing music, excellent costumes and larger props; everything JRC has, but more so, and with superb showmanship and teamwork. It's a damn shame they broke up, and Australia is the poorer for it -- but maybe it is better that they shone for a number of years then moved on, because the Jim Rose Circus, which has been performing since the early 1990s, is starting to look a little tired and frayed.