There's a marked thrill in the air, an anticipatory shiver is taking hold and there are outbreaks of goosebumps being reported across the state. Some insist it's the weather. 'Winter is coming', say they, with a nervous titter and a glance behind them. But forsooth! We know the truth. The ultimate renaissance of sideshow freakery is about to be unleashed, and no devil who dares will experience it unchanged.
Once relegated to the shadowed fringes of more conventional amusements, the art of sideshow is now sauntering from the sidelines and into the limelight with the inaugural World Sideshow Festival, a bazaar of the bizarre and soiree of the surreal, to be held from the 21st to the 23rd of May in Ballarat, just over an hour's drive from Melbourne.
The Dirty Brothers
Ballarat, with its rich history, Gothic architecture and propensity for the eerie may just be the perfect place for an outre ensemble to take to the stage, but there is another reason the city was chosen – festival producer Shep Huntly is a Ballarat native, and after 20 years touring his own brand of edgy artistry to the world, the time has come for him to bring it home. "I always knew I wanted to bring something back to Ballarat," said Mr Huntly. "I have used 20 years of experience and all my connections to bring back the best thing I could possibly bring, a festival full of world class shows."
That he has, with the likes of the enthralling Lilikoi Kaos of Circus Oz fame; The Lizardman, a reptilian Texan renowned for his repertoire of incredible stunts, as well as his forked tongue, sharpened teeth and his dedication to ink; The Space Cowboy, with his unrivalled collection of World Records; the comedic noir of hobo clowns (makes sense) with The Dirty Brothers; Aerial Manx's mad-cap contortionism and the off-beat antics of The Syndicate.
Lilikoi Kaos performing at The Spiegeltent.
The festival opens on Thursday 21 May with a cabaret event featuring all of the stars to give audiences a taste of what's to come, followed by the opening night party with DJ Bagalicious. Friday night will see The Syndicate (Captain Ruin, Bam Bam and Samora Squid) take to the stage for the first show, followed by a second show from The League of Sideshow Superstars (The Lizardman, The Space Cowboy, Lilikoi and various others depending on what's tickling everyone's fancy). Afterwards, DJ Bagalicious will be back to pump up the jams again. Saturday night will be comprised of shows from Aerial Manx and The Dirty Brothers, wrapping up with an after party with live music from local rockabilly-blues band Mick Dog's Bone Yard.
The Space Cowboy
Tickets for opening night are $20; the Friday and Saturday shows are $33 each, or a season pass to all events can be purchased for $120. Punters should (naturally) expect the unexpected when attending the festival – word has it that the performers have a few ad hoc amusements in store as well.
For show times, ticket information and more details about the performances, check out the World Sideshow Festival website and Facebook page.