On The Scene // The Secret Circus #1 @ Parr Street Studios


The Secret Circus #1
[Parr Street Studios, [04/12/14]

Ohhhhhhhhh it's-



Finally, the highly anticipated Secret Circus has arrived – Music, Dance, Burlesque, Fire, Magic, and Spoken Word art forms all in one megalithic venue: Studio 2.

After years of wading through sweaty nightclubs, busted pubs, and dusty bars, clawing my way to the bar to down another round of 2-4-1-paint-stripper-vodka just to stomach the in-house music, a solution has presented itself at last! And it's all down to the persistence of two true community spirits: Eve Howlett and Chanel Samson. With the room already filling up nicely, Samson and Howlett in wit-woo festive circus regalia open the show with welcoming rhymes, introducing the first acts in what promises to be an extraordinary evening.

Speak Easy to Dance With Me

Spoken Word artists Jake Hawkes, and Tom George kick us off with two pieces each. Both are naturals on the stage, reciting home-spun poems about life, love, and... well, poetry. George's <Careless Wispa> caused a belly-full of laughs – an ode to a sickly-sweet love story using all manner of chocolatey puns. Spoken Word's a tough nut to crack these days, but I for one was very glad to see the art still alive in these two gifted artists. In a flash of fiction, the stage is cleared, and dancer Rachael Mellor hots up the stage with a sassy routine to Crazy In Love. Mellor flaunts some attitude-infused moves to a packed-out room, thrusting out arms, legs, and hips. The blood is warming up quickly, and next our eyes are diverted to Wills Lishman as he takes his position.

Now, Liverpool has done a lot for it's native artists, and continues to do so, but I have noticed that Dance isn't half as prominent as it should be, especially in a city as vibrant as ours. If you're reading this and know of a way to help give Dance it's rightful leg-up, do get in contact – we're as eager as you are, particularly after what we saw with Lishman.

Straight off the bat, Lishman's movements are impossibly refined; desperate, dramatic, and incredibly graceful. Sweeping, falling, gliding across the stage, he releases his soul for us all to see, fighting gravity in a dramatic, and very beautiful piece. An on-stage backflip sends a 'woahh!' across the audience, and Lishman draws his piece to a close to riotous applause. Big respect to both dancers – the big wheel of the Circus doesn't stay still for long...

Give Me Amore, Amore, Amore!

I'll quite happily admit that my notes for this next piece are somewhat scarce: I was a little busy watching the intoxicating Mimi Amore as she removed her clothes bit by bit. I'll tell you what I do remember though...

Amore doesn't just boil our blood with her deliciously co-ordinated Spanish Flower burlesque routine – she brings the whole audience under her spell. The one thing I was not expecting from Amore was how god damn funny she is! As soon as the word 'burlesque' is whispered from MCs Howlett and Samson, every male in the room shifts uncomfortably to the left as their partners sink their nails into their palms, but Amore captivated every body in the room with bursts of raucous comedy. Now and again, a piece of clothing would hit the floor, to which Mimi would signal for a politely gratuitous response – it was hilarious! To no surprise, the room had filled up to capacity by the time Amore took her bow, and the applause was immense.

Ooo can you feel those vibes? Ain't they just beautiful?!

Sipping whiskey and already rocking the stage, magician David Alnwick is just too fast to follow! This man is the king of misdirection – the term 'audience participation' quickly becoming audience dominance. On top of his impossible tricks, Alnwick commands an indestructible wit; he is charming, fluid, and insanely quick!

We were treated to a series of highly entertaining pieces which dazed, confused and elated the audience. Unfortunately, stage-hand duties called and I had to miss the dark arts finale, but you can you can catch dates for David Alnwick via his website, here.

Amore delighted us once more with a fan-atical Egyptian routine – a pleasure to watch from start to finish!

Sing Me To My Grave, I'm Done

Tonight has been one of a kind. I have never, in all my years venturing across this city's culture scene, been so impressed with the quality of acts, pacing, and sense of spirit in a single event... and this is only the beginning!!

After leading the crowds in a can-can procession to see Petra and her fire crew ignite the evening, we are drawn back inside from Back Colquitt Street to see the music. After the Parr Street chills, Nils Martin is precisely what we need. A quintessentially American warmth hangs in the air tonight – the vibe feels more like a festival than an inner-city event! Nils, sporting a tasty electric-acoustic, suitcase-bass drum and tamborine combo, replaces shivers with warm melodies.

Martin's guitar multi-tasking is impressive, but his voice is a little bit lacking after all the previous excitement. He's a touch underwhelming, but the spirits are still soaring, drinks are still pouring, and too much extravaganza kills the conversation anyhow. A strong effort, but I'm geared up for the night's final act, The Good Host.

From their first song, TGH are killing it! I've written here: 'THERE ARE PEOPLE SITTING ON THE FLOOR!!' - a sight for sore eyes, and a sign of the Circus' beautiful success. Front-man Jason Baxter's voice never falters – warmly operatic, theatrical, and thoroughly professional. We're lulled, caressed, eased into rhythmic comfort with tune <Same Old Song> - TGH, even half the band at 4 members, are double the wonder. <The Barley> strikes up in oompahlicious perfection with the surroundings, so full of life Baxter rocks his hat off! And hats off to bassist and co-vocalist Tony who harmonises beautifully all throughout the set.

I can see collaborative artist Crafty Conscious gearing up for <Forty Lies>, I can see it in his cheeky grin as the tune begins. One of their newer songs, the pace is sinister – a breeding ground for that infectious TGH sound. Launching himself on stage, Crafty blazes into rhyme, words flowing like a river of angst and truth. The band burn magnesium bright, and Crafty disappears off-stage as quickly as he arrived – spectacular!

Parting Is Such Sweet Circus

What a gnarly bunch of freaks! Tonight has been sheer joy, and there's no shortage of acts ready for the next instalment of The Secret Circus – the FIRST THURSDAY of EVERY MONTH starting FEBRUARY 2015 – miss it, and the clowns will come getcha!


- J. C.B. Crawford