Madame Pain’s Boudoir Circus: the wild side of Download 2011

At the after-hours party in The Village at Download Festival, something very special, and very debauched is going on. Welcome to the first appearance of Madame Pain's Boudoir Circus, the hotbed of everything sleazy, sexy and scary you could wish for in a live show.

VF caught up with director Moira and Madame Pain (a.k.a. Chrisalys) for a quick chat during rehearsals where they revealed that the four-hour show would contain a colossal 25 different acts from trapeze to fire eating, flaming poi and even a gut-wrenching high drop onto a bed of nails, with a team of over 50 people on board.

If you think the description warrants a gasp, it doesn’t hold a candle to the reality of the show, where a melee of costumed demons from the Victorian Gothic to Japanese Geisha, take to the stage dancing and writhing. The busty bodices of the ladies do nothing to impede their can-can abilities and as airborne ‘cats’ deadly flat spin towards the floor with nothing but a rope coiled around their thighs.

Moira explained the set up of the Circus: “It’s not in the traditional round, and some of the acts go really up close and personal with the audience, so it’s really immersive. Chrisalys will be sticking knives up his nose, mouse traps on his tongue and standing on a bed of nails. It’s going to be really exciting.”

Chrisalys makes it clear that what he does it no form of trickery: “You’ll see live piercing. Real blood, it’s all real and it does actually hurt! I think the bed of nails is probably the most painful for me. The audience don’t believe it’s real, but when they see the staples going in, they do get a shock.” And what a shock it is! Even the toughest tattooed rocker in the house permitted themselves a grimace at the gruesome self-destruction, and more than a few faces had been hidden behind hands.

Enigmatic host Chrisalys has previously performed with Alice Cooper in his ‘Halloween Night Of Fear’, though he point outs that they’re probably both too busy with their shows to meet up at the festival. VF asked if Chris had ever ‘lost’ anything when doing his piercing and swallowing acts before: “Once I did a show where I stapled my arm and afterwards I got changed, took all my makeup off and was just sitting with my friends, when someone said: ‘um, there’s still a staple in you.’ I really didn’t know it was there!”.

As well as the self-mutilation Chris is also a master of fire, taking a burning fan of flames and extinguishing them in his mouth, only to magically re-light them seemingly from nowhere, and he manages a pretty good Galor-gas advert holding a naked flame in his hand as he struts down the runway. These are only snippets of a sensational and awe-inspiring show, from a very saucy grinding act (involving quite a lot of thrusting), aerial and floor acrobatics to some extremely creepy contortion, the whole spectacle is superb.

To say the Boudoir Circus is at home at Download would be an understatement, they look as if they’ve just crawled out of the stage woodwork, they’re the bogey men of your festival closet, and they are damn good at what they do. Hopefully they will be back next year to wow us all over again.

In the meantime, if you fancy learning the tricks of the trade, the people at who run Madame Pain’s Boudior Circus are on hand to help you choose a class and who knows, maybe we could be seeing you perform at Download one day too!