Gazette reporter visits Cirque Berserk and risks life and limb taking part in a death-defying act
I can’t say it filled me with confidence when the first thing that the leader of the group of motorcyclists tasked with tackling the infamous ‘Globe of Death’ told me was that he’d broken almost every bone in his body.
Lucius Zafalon, the founder of the self-named Team Lucius, has performed the act since the age of 15 and after 25 years of performing (and many injuries along the way) he’s become a master of the craft.
He’s also enlisted the help of his wife Paula, who stands in the middle of the structure as the bikes whizz around her head, in what is a real heart-in-mouth performance.
The act takes place in a steel lattice ball, ironically, as it must take balls of steel (and a lot of trust in her husband) for Paula to stand in the globe, in the name of entertainment.
So you can imagine my apprehension when I was asked to accompany Paula inside the globe at a special Cirque Berserk backstage preview event on Wednesday afternoon, before the show opened at the Blackpool Opera House that night.
A quick search on Google followed, as I researched exactly what I was letting myself in for and “Globe of Death accidents” being one of the suggested searches only filled me with more dread.
Upon arriving backstage at the Opera House, I was greeted by Paul Winston, the manager of Cirque Berserk and occasional ringmaster of Zippo’s Circus - the company that owns Cirque Berserk.
After psyching myself up to enter the Globe of Death, stand as still as possible and close my eyes until it was all over, Paul threw another curveball and told me that there was a point where I’d have to move to one side to allow a bike to pass where I’d originally been standing.
At this point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d told me that I’d have to get some leathers on and ride around the globe myself.
While we waited for the bikes to warm up, Dan Martino, the Gazette’s photographer and myself were invited to watch the performers rehearse.
It was a fascinating spectacle; the Timbuktu Tumblers building their human pyramids, Toni Novotny throwing knives dangerously close to his assistant Rosey Delarue, all set to the beat of husband and wife duo Gabriel and Germaine, with him performing his mesmerising ‘bolas’ routine while she banged a drum behind him.
This was circus, but not as you know it and it took my mind momentarily away from the terrifying ordeal that lay in wait.
A chat with the absolutely lovely Paula, as she talked me through exactly what to do and what to definitely not do (let’s just say that me stretching my arm out to the side would be particularly problematic) somewhat put my mind to rest and I just wanted to get in there and get it over and done with.
As I stepped inside the globe and was told to “watch my head”, it struck me how tiny it actually was. There was barely room for two bikes, let alone four, as is the case in the show.
But Paula was very reassuring, keeping a very tight hold of me throughout. When it was time to move to one side, she pushed me along and she generally made me feel as safe as I possibly could in such dangerous surroundings.
Even so, when it was over, I couldn’t get out of the globe quick enough, only for our photographer Dan to hand me the phone he’d been filming on and instruct me to step into the breach once more, for a point-of-view perspective.
Despite my original fears, the second time round was much a more enjoyable experience and it’s something that I’ll be able to look back on as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Cirque Berserk is on at the Blackpool Opera House until tomorrow evening.
What is Cirque Berserk?
Cirque Berserk is a circus show, owned by Zippo’s Cirus.
It features more than 30 performers, including jugglers, acrobats, aerialists, dancers, musicians and death-defying stunt men. It is also the home to the infamous Globe of Death.
What is the Globe of Death?
The Globe of Death is an act performed by Team Lucius, led by Brazilian motorcyclist Lucius Zafalon - who also designed the ‘globe’ itself.
The act sees four motorcyclists whizz around a steel lattice ball at speeds of up to 60mph.
Part way through the act, two of the riders leave and in steps Lucius’s wife Paula who stands in the middle as the two bikes loop the loop above and around her.
To book tickets, visit www.cirqueberserk.co.uk.