Udderbelly (Venue 300)
After a thirty minute delay (which meant most audience members had been standing in the lashing rain for the best part of an hour), I was ushered into the purpling recesses of the Udderbelly anxious to be entertained by a show which passed into Fringe legend after its last run in 1998. Jim Rose, self-styled Satan incarnate, invites the audience to enjoy his carnival of the bizarre and the hideous. So far, so good.
Woman squirts blue paint from rectal canal! Man has penis caught in raccoon trap! Woman pulls clothes from her vagina! Muscleman has vagina! Surely this stuff should be entertaining. And it really, really should be. The most unfortunate aspect of this car-crash of a show is that it tries so hard to be entertaining, but with seven minutes of yawn-inducing filler to every one minute of actual sideshow mayhem, it feels jumbled together like a disorganised bad-taste potluck, there’s no consistency and a complete visual overload.
Even when the action focuses on a single performer, Jim’s incessant ad-libbing, a non-stop barrage of antiquated one-liners seemingly plundered from every comic in history, proves more distracting than rousing. The crowd of inebriated spectacle-lovers you’d expect at a midnight performance featuring topless girls and men swallowing goldfish shouldn’t be hard to please, yet there was a painfully visible reluctance among audience members to get involved. The unimpressed silence following a particularly horrific sequence of mimed female self-circumcision led to a downward spiral few performers could recover from. Even those on-stage seemed to realise they’d simply gone too far.
Reviewing a show like The Jim Rose Circus is the quintessential exercise in futility. Chances are, you’ve made up your mind by now if you want to see it. My only option is to say that if your idea of an enjoyable evening out is watching Dirty Sanchez in a strip club, this is for you. Otherwise, I’m sure there are charities for retired transsexual bodybuilders that would be glad to receive your entry fee.
- Jack Smith