There will be blood
Dr Haze, the enigmatic ringmaster and vocalist of the rock and roll freak show that is the Circus of Horrors, is no stranger to Ireland. As a 12-year-old, his father whisked him across the Irish Sea to serve an apprenticeship as a fire-breather.
It was, recalls the mysteriously-titled Dr Haze, literally “a baptism of fire”, as he had no experience of performing and even less with fire.
“My mum wouldn’t let me light up a match, let alone fire-eat… and then away I went, fire-eating in Ireland. So that’s where it all began and that’s where I got sawdust in my veins,” he says.
Like many young men, the young Dr Haze, then simply named John Slater, felt the lure of rock and roll and left the circus to pursue his dream. However, the sawdust still flowed through his veins and the enterprising youngster found a way of combining his two loves, through the Circus of Horrors.
The Circus first appeared 17 years ago at the Glastonbury Festival in 1995 and has toured constantly since, shocking and entertaining audiences the world over.
Combining the acrobatic performance of Cirque du Soleil and the travelling freakshow stylings of the Jim Rose Circus with horror and gore and adding an Alice Cooper-esque rock element, the Circus of Horrors is unique in the circus world, and, as Haze admits, it does not take itself too seriously.
“It’s all done with a forked tongue firmly in each cheek,” he says.
The dangerous nature of the performances is part of the thrill for audiences and Haze admits that there have been accidents, though in keeping with the nature of the show, they have tended to be more bizarre than serious.
The most famous incident, he recalls, was when ‘Captain Dan the Demon Dwarf’ inadvertently managed to glue a certain part of his anatomy to a vacuum cleaner.
“He read the instructions to say dry in 20 seconds. It actually said dry in 20 minutes,” laughs Dr Haze.
Obviously, this show is not for children, featuring as it does scenes of horror and some nudity. Nonetheless, the circus was propelled to a much more mainstream audience last year when they reached the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent.
Dr Haze is adamant that the show is not ‘rigged’ and that they did not know when they were going through from the audition stage, although he does admit that they did not apply, but were invited to appear. Nor did they have to queue with the thousands of other hopefuls at the audition.
“I don’t think it’s fixed like people have said. You don’t know you’re going to go through. I think you’ve got an idea, but nobody tells you for sure,” he says.
He is angered, however, at how the show was portrayed by some of the judges, who criticised elements of the performance that were dictated to them by the Britain’s Got Talent producers.
“Amanda Holden said ‘Yeah, I really liked you [but] I think you should have thought about your positioning’, which was the most ridiculous statement ever to make, because you’re told where to stand!
“You feel like you want to tell people, but then it sounds like sour grapes so you’ve got to grin and bear it, really.”
Nonetheless, having been exposed to a TV audience of 35 million viewers, plus thousands more online, he certainly harbours no regrets about appearing on the talent show.
Ahead of the circus’s appearance at the Black Box next week, Dr Haze promises Galway audiences a bizarre and fun-filled night, including the European debut of the ‘Wolf Boy’, who has flown in from Mexico to perform with the troupe.
“They’ll get one hell of a show. There’s really amazing things going on. Brilliant acts, brilliant bizarre things, lots and lots of humour and lots of great rock music, all combined into one show. It’s a case of see it now or miss it forever.”
The Circus of Horrors appears at the Black Box, Dyke Road on Tuesday, 6 November at 8pm. Tickets are priced at €28, with €25 concessions. The show is for over-12s only. Tickets are available at 091-569777 or www.tht.ie.