The Circus of Horrors has come a long way since its formation for an intended one-off performance at Glastonbury in 1995. Described as ‘if Quentin Tarantino had directed Cirque Du Soleil’ and having stormed to the finals of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in 2011 with an amazing showcase of fire breathing, sword swallowing and other dark, weird and wonderful talents, the circus is now on a monstrous 21st anniversary international tour.
However, long before its exposure to the mainstream, there was one girl who left a performance in her hometown of Crawley completely blown away by it all. “I was 12 and I remember watching the hula-hoop performer and thinking ‘oh my God, I want to be her.’” I can still detect a sense of childlike wonder as Fox tells me her story. An element of disbelief still lingers, but the ambition that got her where she is today still remains evident. “To actually be 24 and go ‘I am that hula-hoop girl’, it’s amazing. Then I thought; what’s the next dream going to be? What else can I achieve?”
While she may have been captivated by the magic of the hula-hoop at just 12, Fox admits that she didn’t actually pick one up to “give it a go” until she was in late-adolescence. “I started hula-hooping religiously. It was a great thing for my confidence, and a good form of stress relief.” Nevertheless, Fox is adamant learning any skill requires the overcoming of a few hurdles. At one point, frustration was becoming a recurring intervention in her quest to become a hula-hooping prodigy, but she was able to work through this. “I almost had this sort of mini epiphany which was ‘no, no wait. If you‘re getting annoyed at this, then it’s not fun anymore. Your hoop is your friend.’ That moment really helped my progression.” Then, by the time she had finished college, the impulse to be a professional performer had become more of an intense desire. “I just threw myself into the industry.”
Her persistence has clearly paid off, evidenced by her truly remarkable skill set: hula-hooping, fire performance and burlesque, all utilised in her circus performance. “It’s very rock ‘n’ roll. I basically burlesque strip while spinning hoops. It’s a little bit more like the adult version of hula-hooping!” she jokes. She also performs with up to three fire hoops at once and does fire breathing and body burning.
The refusal to give up on her ability was also demonstrated by her decision to approach John Hayes, the longest serving member and orchestrator of the Circus of Horrors, last year. “I was just getting elbowed the whole time by my friends who were saying ‘seriously, why aren’t you in this?’” Fox had a chat with Hayes afterwards, and a couple of weeks later she was given the chance to prove her worth in an audition.
Having started her first tour with the circus, the hula-hooping, fire-wielding sensation has been dancing from one end of the globe to the other. “Amsterdam was quite fun. I’ve got a lot of friends there. I also enjoyed performing at the O2 because we were in the Moscow State tent. That was quite cool.” She may be able to maintain a casual disposition when talking about travelling all over the world, but Fox can’t contain her excitement when I bring up her performance at the Theatre Royal Brighton next month. “It’s going to be brilliant! I’ve got lots of performing friends that are coming to see the show, and heaps of support from everyone.”
Her enthusiasm suggests she views Brighton as some kind of spiritual home. When you consider the role it played in kick-starting her career, it’s not hard to understand why. Having started out performing at venues such as Proud Cabaret, making a name for herself on the Brighton scene, she eagerly awaits a reunion with the city where it all began. It’s going to be great turning up in Brighton again, but as a performer with a touring circus.” It’s going to be the icing on the cake in what’s been a glittering year or so for Fox, but it feels more fitting to say that this is the base of the cake that represents a promising career going forward.
The Circus of Horrors comes to Theatre Royal Brighton on Mon 14 March.