I have seen many gigs at one of York’s finest venues, the Fulford Arms, but never have I experienced anything close to Madam Misfit and her Carnival of Chaos. David Bowie once sang the line “turn and face the strange” and that night we certainly did face the strange. This show wouldn’t have been out of place in one of the weirder episodes of American Horror Story, notably ‘Freak Show’ (series 4 from 2014). It wasn’t just a gig, although Madam Misfit did perform a few tunes, it was more like a travelling carnival sideshow from the US midwest in the 30s. There are a number of different types of carnival sideshows in the USA, one of those is the Ten-in-One which would offer a program of ten sequential acts under one tent for a single admission price. It might include a freak show, but would definitely include “working acts”, Madam Misfits carnival was most definitely built on those working acts. The master of ceremonies was Adam Washington, sporting a red frock coat suit and knee boots to appear just like the finest ringmaster you could imagine, a top hat would have made the outfit perfect. Adam kicked off proceedings with a rendition of “Pure Imagination” from ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, it was a performance that was fit for a London Theatre Stage. He introduced a fine magical, medley of madness delivered by the campest magician in the world, Magic Adam, juggler extraordinaire Ed Mondo, daring, dangerous, and dynamic duo the Safety Last Side Show, and of course the Empress of Chaos herself, Madam Misfit.
The Safety Last Side Show team is a married couple the Indestructible Man and the wonderfully named Velocity Bollocks. A mat of broken glass was arranged on the floor and Velocity proceeded to walk over it barefoot, yes absolutely no shoes were harmed in performing this feat, to be fair I don’t believe her feet were harmed either. Later Ms. Bollocks lay on a bed of nails, which is something that really didn’t look too comfortable to me. The Indestructible Man (or should we call him Mr. Bollocks?) did everything he could to prove his invincibility. He ate a light bulb, I sure as hell didn’t want to be around when that came out at the other end. He deliberately trapped a finger in a rusty old animal trap, he barely winced at this, meanwhile paper cuts make me cry out in pain. Finally, he undertook a couple of daring feats of sword swallowing. The second attempt using a sword with no handle, but attached to a rope which he said he needed to anchor before he swallowed it, a few wags in the audience suggested that he might anchor it to his todger, to be fair he did say it was too small for that. But how he did anchor it was a strange and painful to behold, a surprise to the audience, and indeed shocking for some. He used a staple gun to attach the anchor rope to his torso. It was a brilliant piece of weird theatre, I have one question, apart from did it hurt, how the hell do you practice and rehearse that?
Magic Adam, is certainly magic and also manages to raise the campometer to a mercury-breaking level. He comes across as a larger-than-life Vaudevillian Villain. the trick where he offered £1,000 for simply picking the right number from five, which was very clever indeed. Has he ever had to pay out the grand? I suspect not. Meanwhile, Ed Mondo wowed the crowd with a staggeringly good juggling act which consisted of him juggling up to five bowler hats. He used hands, knees, feet, elbows, and his head and made it look easy. Madam Misfit made a few appearances throughout the whole show and she was there to close proceedings by showcasing some of her rather splendid chap hop tunes. The plentitudinous, evocative, mountebankery that is the new single “Chu Chi Face”, a cover of the old song from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. My particular favourite was the splendiferously performed “Skin You’re In”. The evening was closed with the whole troupe returning to the stage for a pizazz-fuelled take on the Monty Python classic, “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”. This was not just another great gig, it was a staggeringly great show! Huzzah to Madam Misfit and her cunning and courageous courtiers. The Arctic Monkeys once sang the line “four stars out of five”, they certainly weren’t singing about Madam Misfit and her Carnival of Chaos, if they were then they would have sung five stars out of five!
All photos, apart from the show poster, were snapped by the titanically talented Neal Rylatt.
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