Skip to content


Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow The Circus of Terror
The Circus of Terror
Published on Wednesday, 21 August 2013

3 stars

Greenside (venue website)
2-10, 12-17, 19-24 Aug, 5:10pm-6:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

Three or four years ago, you could barely step into a Fringe theatre without being asked to slap on a blindfold. So for me, there’s something gently nostalgic about The Circus of Terror, which you’ll experience – a couple of visual interludes aside – with your eyes firmly closed. There’s a reminiscent feel to the narrative, too: it’s full of good old macabre scare stories, about ghosts and knife-throwers and creepily realistic waxworks, and the whole thing’s performed with heartening enthusiasm by a young and inventive cast.

The evening begins with a solicitous welcome from our red-cheeked ringmaster, who dutifully warns those of a nervous disposition that it’s probably time to leave.  From then on we’re in darkness – listening to a narrative punctuated by screams, howls, and occasional physical interventions, most strikingly when I felt the touch of what might just be a tarantula.  Judging by the shrieks and whispered curses which ensued from all around, for many people the experience did prove thrillingly real.  But me?  I was mildly startled precisely once.  I must clearly have nerves of steel.

Or perhaps it’s more that The Circus of Terror isn’t really, as its programme blurb claims, a horror show.  There are a lot of entertaining shocks along the way, which may or may not make you jump out of your seat, but there’s little in the way of creeping menace or lingering doom.  The vignettes are too short, and drawn too boldly, to deliver the kind of slow-building bone-chilling unease which defines true horror.  It is what it is, and they play it with gusto, but I felt I’d been primed for something a bit more – well – terrifying.

Still, it’s good fun, and the stories are enjoyable – ranging from a relatively touching tale of romance beyond the grave, to a gory story about the fate of conjoined twins.  It’s not to be taken too seriously of course, and part of the point is that it’s gloriously over-done.  But I still felt a few twinges of sympathy for the cursed trapeze artists or the fatefully dishonourable clown.

There are a couple of practical issues.  The setup of the theatre isn’t great for them: they have to get in among the audience, and part of the reason I was never truly shocked is that I could inevitably hear them clumping up and down the stairs.  A few lines were lost among the general commotion, and on a stern note, throwing buckets of water over your audience – without first prompting them to take things like phones and paperwork out of their pockets – just isn’t cool.

All in all then, it’s not the best blindfold piece ever to come to the Fringe, but if you’ve never experienced a show like this before then it’s one you won’t want to miss.  The young performers show a lot of commitment, and they play their roles with flair.  In their hands, The Circus of Terror is more than just a sideshow.

<< Doug Segal: I Can Make Yo...   Scroobius Pip - Words >>

About our star ratings

We've changed our rating system for this year.

Find out more >>

Follow our reviews!

RSS Subscribe to RSS
Twitter Follow us on Twitter

Editor's Blog

We're blogging this month about the ethics and practice of arts reviewing at the Fringe.  Come and join the discussion.

Visit the blog >>