Welcome to the programme for tonight's show. For your delight and delectation, we will be presenting the following:
1) Your genial host - Whiskers Yewtree
2) The Devil takes the Royal Box, his minions to survey
3) The Apocalypse Pit Orchestra - from the Pit
4) Romelu et Julietta - only one of them's alive; but which?
5) Rosie from the Rafters - solo acrobat
6) The Wall of Death - featuring Arthur Escargot
7) Mistress Whippy's Interval Snacks
8) Ms Marie Antoinette's Puppet Gallery
9) Fire Eaters of the Orient; Sword Swallowers of the Orient
10) The World's Greatest Illusionist
11) Old Ma Bisto - songs with rousing choruses but bitter verses
12) Las Grimgirls - dancers on graves
13) Teddy Snapdragon - he juggles with his thumbs
Your Genial Host, Whiskers Yewtree
He needs the shows to keep him awake. A sunny day, a few hours of inaction, and he starts to take root again. After a few days, his whiskers sprout into ivy while bark grows over his eyes and his mouth. Once he stayed behind in a park, slept for a month and woke in a foul temper after an overnight frost. He trampled a dog walker and her six dogs as he dragged himself out of the ground. And he knocked over the wall to the rose garden before he was properly awake.
It was the Devil who uprooted him in the first place, of course. Some people say Whiskers tried to strangle him when the Devil wanted his branches for broomsticks and was cursed to wander the earth. The other tale is that he helped the Devil to hide from an angry mob and was given the reward of perpetual curiosity. Either way, it's in everyone's interests to keep Whiskers lively. But that isn't as easy to accomplish as it was long ago. He's seen a thousand years of clowns and acrobats, jugglers and jokesters, or so he says. He chooses what goes in the show and the acts must be extraordinary, they have to be mind-bogglingly amazing to hold his interest night after night. If they impress him, imagine what they'll do to you.
The Devil takes the Royal Box, his Minions to Survey
The Devil, otherwise known as Management. His brimstone and egg stench wafts from the Royal Box to the nearby seats, but no-one dares complain. He has had the seats from the box removed; his abominable rump sits on the skinned backs of yesterday's two most popular performers. His scabbed wings rest behind him, his polished horns shine, his spotty bow tie spins.
The Devil, otherwise known as Old Nick, smokes. Not a cigar, or a pipe, his whole body smokes with plumes of rank deep grey steam. He takes a call on his iPhone and talks loudly throughout the beautiful solo performance of "Greensleeves". He finishes by shouting abuse down the phone, swearing in every language spoken by every member of the audience and the troupe within the auditorium. Then, picks out his snacks from his leather satchel which is unsettling for its freckles and tattoos. The bag squeaks as if in pain.
The Lord of both Flies and Lies crunches down on boiled eyes and southern fried fingers and toes, washed down with a two litre bottle of Coke. He belches and farts, the performers beneath him whimper, to his amusement.
The audience watches the Devil, otherwise known as Lucifer, as much as they do the acts on stage, but try not to catch his eye. Who knows when he might send down an arrow of flame, or 'invite' someone to attend him.
The Nail, otherwise known as the Devil, only applauds when an act fails. Freezing on stage, fluffing lines and wardrobe malfunctions amuse him not; he reserves his applause for serious bodily harm. His favourite last season was the untimely death of El Burrito when his cannon act misfired, and only his innards were shot out…
At the end of the performance the Devil, known as the Boss, stands up and raises both middle claws to the audience and gets the biggest applause of the night. Those who fail to wave and cheer enthusiastically enough are be invited to a personal audience with His Satanic Majesty at the after-show party.
The Apocalypse Pit Orchestra - from the Pit
From the back of the pit the timpani begins, shaking the ground, beating out inside your head, the thud thud of Krupp machines on the Western Front, bombs on Dresden, London, and Nagasaki… All the places where the final beats began, beating out the beginning of the end, beating out the overture to the apocalypse that started in the heart of the twentieth century. The drummer has seen it all, has prided himself on being a survivor and yet all he knows to do is to keep beating, keep playing…
From the left come in the strings: high, cutting, doing something to your ears, doing something to your insides. Strings like knives, like cutting blades of factories turning cows into hotdogs.
Horns like sirens, like warnings. Trumpets, Trombones, cornets. You think you might not be able to take it much longer but wait, just wait. As I said, it is better than the silence, and we, like the other acts, must have our moment, before we become just an accompaniment.
Then the celesta begins. A little relief you think, a little ditty on a keyboard over the assault of the other sections. And yet it is so melancholy you might find it hard to bear…
Until at last come the woodwinds, the clarinet and oboes. The songs of the dead become floating souls.
Let us have our moment.
You watch the conductor wave his baton, his back and shoulders working. Until at last we flow into the introductions for the first act. We do not break but meld right in. There must never be silence and every act must be accompanied, every little flourish must have its ta dah.
Most of the audience forget about us now, their attention on whoever is on the stage. And yet there is always you, that curious soul who half rises from your seat to look down into the pit, to fix in sight the sounds, the music.
You might see a flock of birds falling.
You might see only dust.
Or that the conductor is still, dead. Propped up that way as he has been for years, his movement all illusion.
An old reel-to-reel tape plays, and around it lie the bodies.
Romelu et Julietta
Are dancers, are lovers, are forever entwined and sometimes each is indistinguishable from the other. Only one of them's alive; but which?
Here is Romelu, lifting the lady high into the air, his muscles bulging and stretching with tension, his breeches tight around a prominent groin that has many maidens swooning in the aisles. Oh to be bronzed and dashing like this young hunk! Graceful and powerful, he stalks the stage like a tiger. He is the best aspects of masculinity personified. Surely it is he who holds the life force and the tragedy is that his lover no longer lives?
Yet wait. Gaze upon fair Julietta. So lithe, so nimble. The paleness is simply her complexion exemplified by the theatre's lime lights. She twitters across the stage as if the prima ballerina in "Swan Lake". She encompasses all that is verdant and alive in nature, in the feminine force of Gaia. At the climax of the act, her man falls to the floor apparently dead and she offers a choreographic soliloquy of loss and mourning that could only be accomplished by one still maintaining the life force.
So which is living and which is dead? There is a third theory: a tale of a curse upon two constellated young lovers. This tells that in order to maintain their relationship, one of them had to relinquish their hold on mortality. And now? And now they share the one life force. As Romelu rises it is he who breathes and moves; as Julietta takes her solo, it is she who is blessed with life. They live forever joined together but sequentially like an endless binary code: he, she, he, she…
Celebrate our tragic pas de deux.
Dancers, lovers, forever entwined; doomed to never truly be together on this mortal plane.
Rosie from the Rafters
Rosie from the Rafters: our very own spider woman, weaving webs of wonder with her acrobatic expertise. See her balance on one fingertip while juggling with her feet, spinning fishbowls full of live piranhas without spilling a drop. Watch amazed as she blows bubbles from her nose while suspended by her hair, pit bulls hanging from her ankles (don't worry folks, they're specially trained not to sever tendons). Be enthralled as Rosie solves the conundrum of the Rubik cube in less than sixty seconds while balancing on her head. Her concentration is phenomenal; shout, scream, throw things (sharp objects will be confiscated at the door)-a prize for anyone that can distract her. Look up, ladies and gentleman, and see Rosie where she is the happiest, up amongst the rafters of this ancient theatre. Be one of the few to see her at play with her eight-legged companions. If you're lucky some of them may drop in for a visit! And, as her grand finale, Rosie will hang from a single thread while she is cocooned in spider silk. It's a not-to-be-missed spectacle. You'll be amazed at just how quickly those arachnids can work!
Enter our FREE competition (one entry per ticket holder).
Guess what Rosie will emerge as:
The winner will receive a behind-the-scenes tour and get to practice some of Rosie's death-defying tricks. If you're lucky, you may even get to feed Rosie's favourite wolf-trap spider. It's one of a kind!
- A butterfly
- A frog
- Spider Woman