It’s not all clowning around in the Big Top. Daring KATIE UPTON encountered the scary attraction that has wowed audiences - and lived to tell the tale...
It’s not called the wheel of death for nothing! These are the well meant words of Bippo the clown, uttered to me moments before this huge circus top construction, whisks me 30ft into the air - no safety harness included.
I’ve never considered myself to be the daring type, yet here I am riding the Wheel Of Death at Gerry Cottle’s Wow! Show at the Globe Theatre.
The Wheel Of Death is, for those who have not yet seen it in action, more or less two giant hamster wheels suspended from a circus big top.
Ridden by experts, who run inside the wheel to set it in motion, it wows audiences.
Elevating performers to the top of the circus top at blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speed while they perform tricks and jumps, the Wheel is as majestic as deathly looking.
But occupied by me, it’s not quite so glamorous.
There were no tears from this clown though as I turned my attentions to unicycling and trapeze as well as the famous Wheel Of Death for an afternoon at Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s latest show.
Gerry Cottle has brought his Wow! Show to the resort after a tour of the south, and while it’s not quite Las Vegas (“my favourite place on Earth”) Blackpool is a perfect location for his troupe of 35 performers.
Not least for Bippo the clown, aka 23-year-old Gareth Ellis, pleased to be back up north near his hometown of Ramsbottom and never too far from proper chip shop gravy.
It is Bippo who guides me on the Wheel Of Death as Colombian performer Chico Marin controls the speed.
My tame eight rotations are as naught to Chico’s usual gymnastic tricks both inside and outside the metal structure as it spins round at great speed.
Showgirl Chelsea Buckley does her best to get me going on a unicycle, to no avail unless resting on the clown’s shoulders.
I have slightly more success on the trapeze silks, attempting to elegantly balance but hindered by a low pain threshold as the silks tighten around my foot.
It’s probably best, suggests Bippo, if you just stand nicely in the centre of the stage and do nothing.
He and fellow clown Ben Coles proceed to juggle to one another across me, throwing seven batons just inches from my face.
At last, something I’m quite capable of doing. I feel like a glamorous assistant, until one of the batons hits me in the head.
“We usually put a cigarette in someone’s mouth and knock it out with a baton as we go,” says Bippo. “We won’t do that with you, you’ve done enough.”
I manage just four tricks in the space of about an hour, incomparable to the performers who pride themselves on racking up 50 acts in 100 minutes for the nightly show, running until November 3 at the Globe Theatre, Blackpool Pleasure Beach. “People like the speed of the show, We don’t spend ages establishing a story, we just get on with it.
“It’s different because it’s so fast,” says Cottle, who explains the show celebrates his 50th anniversary since running away to join the circus.
I’m tempted to do the same myself.