Roll up! Roll up!


Pleasure with a sprinkling of pain is the life of a vintage circus and burlesque show performer.

Taking the applause of a charmed and mesmerised crowd is a nightly treat.

But there’s no trick to lying on a bed of nails, says the Pretty Things Peep Show star who goes by the name of Rachel Renegade.

“Obviously the reason why you’re not speared by them is physics and weight distribution,” she says.

“But there’s no trick to actually making it not hurt.

“By the end of a tour, I can end up looking like a piece of corned beef; bruised, pricked and sad.”

Renegade, known as the pin-proof princess, also climbs a ladder of swords in her bare feet in the United States-based show, which comes to Queenstown’s The Find on Tuesday night.

And she’s a brave nightly ‘target’ for hubbie Charlie Atlas’ newish knife-throwing act.

“He came on tour last summer as our driver,” Renegade says.

“We’d just got together. He’d come on stage to help with various acts and got a really good response because of the way he looks – he looks like a cartoon.

“He picked up the bullwhip and knife throwing really easily, all the strongman stuff he could already do.

“It’s insane how good he got so quickly – his targeting is amazing and he’s never hit me, although we’ve had one mishap where a knife fell out of the board.”

Renegade, an Englishwoman who lives in Glasgow, joined the show four years ago, after teaching herself her acts.

“If you know the right people you can get the information,” she says, “and then you just need a lot of balls and a lack of self-preservation.”

She had known show director and founder Go-Go Amy for a decade and was blown away when she went to watch the show one night.

“It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.”

The show, which has a revolving cast and more than 700 gigs down, combines circus acts, sideshow acts and burlesque with magic, comedy, singing and more – a style known as ‘Broadville’.

“Because some acts are quite extreme like sword-swallowing and bed of nails, quite often people expect it will all be hard core, brutal and shocking.

“But the way it’s presented it’s really very far from that. It’s charming, glamorous and funny.”

Burlesque performer and singer Amy comperes the show with sword-swallower Brianna Belladonna.

Catch the Pretty Things Peep Show at The Find, Tuesday, at 8pm. Tickets $10, pre-sale available from the venue.