Fleetwood Marine Hall is bracing itself for its first ever visit from The Circus of Horrors tomorrow –- and its founder and frontman Doctor Haze can’t wait to get started
“It’s the first time we’ve ever been to Fleetwood and I’ve lined up a very different show,” he says. “One of things I like about the Fylde coast is that wherever we play is so different. We’ve done The Globe at the Pleasure Beach in the round like a real circus and The Grand as a theatre show but for Fleetwood we are dropping our normal storyline in favour of bringing together a cast of the most bizarre acts from the past 10 or 12 years in more of a cabaret show.”
For the uninitiated that means the likes of Captain Dan, the demon dwarf, Hannibal Helmurto, a human pin cushion and the delights of Anastasia IV’s hair hanging act.
“And as a special treat for Circus of Horrors followers there’s the return of Garry Stretch and his amazing elastic skin!” says the Doctor – aka John Hayes. “Because of the medical condition which causes his skin to stretch he’s not been well so is only doing two shows this time around – one of them being Fleetwood.”
So how does a frustrated rock musician who was brought up in a circus family in Preston find the acts which comprise his modern day freaks show?
A lot of them find us but we also hold auditions from time to time when I’m planning a new show.”
One such discovery was Jennifer Potter from Blackpool, a former knife thrower’s assistant who auditioned when the show was in the resort last year and is now a fully fledged member of the cast.
“But acts like Garry find us,” says John. “Well actually his wife approached us when we were at the Roundhouse in London. “We took one look at what he could do with his skin and it was a case of goodbye scaffolder, hello Circus of Horrors.”
He tracked down another act after seeing a contortionist firing a bow and arrow with her feet on America’s Got Talent.
“I tried to get her but couldn’t and then someone doing a similar act tracked us down from Spain,” he says. “I’m always on the look out – I think it’s because I was brought up in a circus family and always used to be impressed by shows like Blackpool Tower Circus as a youngster.”
But he always wanted something different to a “normal” circus and after a spell in a rock band decided to combine the two elements.
At first it was fairly low key with a show staged on the college and rock club circuit (including a gig at the The Tache in Blackpool). The decision to convert it into a Big Top production came after meeting up with circus boss Gerry Cottle after a tragic accident involving his godson on a Wheel of Death act - again in Blackpool.
“I persuaded Gerry it was a good idea – we went to Glastonbury with it in 1995 and haven’t stopped since,” said John.
And if he could do it all over again he would – with the possible exception of their Britain’s Got Talent appearance.
“We didn’t really need it, we didn’t get paid for it and I’m not sure it did us any good,” he admits. “Granted it have us exposure to several million people but I’m not sure it actually put any more bums on seats.”
It was also more by accident than design that they appeared at all.
We’d been approached about a different Saturday night variety show several years before BGT even started,” he says. “Nothing came from it but then BGT was launched and they kept asking us to go on it. I said it would have to the whole lot of us so when they agreed I asked the cast and we decided to give it a go.”
Their audition received a five minute standing ovation but having reached the semi finals their luck ran out.
He’s currently planning the show’s next tour – “I did all the arrangements myself” – and says he will carry on “as long as I’m fit enough and people want to see us.”
At the moment both those boxes are firmly ticked.
The Circus of Horrors is appearing at Marine Hall for one night only tomorrow at 7.30pm and tickets are available from the Marine Hall box office on (01253) 887693 or order online at www.marinehall.co.uk. Adult seats are £19.50 and concession rates are £18.