The Psychiatric Circus

psychiatric circus I had seen the psychotic looking clown plastered on bus stops all around town. Arms bound at the torso, bloodied gloves clutching a syringe, all the while grinning like a madman. It didn’t matter the show was in Italian; I had to experience this place where normality is completely reversed.

No colourful circus marquee, instead, a white, blood spattered hospital tent. It’s entrance lined with cells holding madmen, all screeching, and laughing insanely. The monotonous pop-rock music in the background only fueling their insanity. One-by-one they escape, running amok amongst the audience, dragging screaming teenage girls back to their cages; while the rest of us make our way into the main event.

I’m ushered to my seat by an inmate who looks like Hannibal Lecter, his mouth muzzled. Nearby a girl in a white gown clutches her doll close, while another inmate stares, oblivious at the ball before his face, the clown runs amongst the audience bursting balloons, screeching fanatically, and all the while the sisters stare vacantly into space.

The lights dim and Father Josef – priest, doctor, and director – introduces himself. We are about to be taken on a journey through the Bergen Catholic Insane Asylum.

Transported back to the fifties, the inmates engage the audience in a series humorous acts: one inmate taking a woman on a drive through the countryside – two wheelchairs as his imaginary car; another couple of women are treated to raunchy Chippendale show by another 4 inmates. Then the show takes a turn and the dark side of the asylum emerges; the sexual abuse, the suicide, the exorcism.

A large glass bowl of water is rolled on stage after a female inmate is abused by Father Josef. She gives a powerful performance – a mix of dance, acrobatics, contortion, and lighting – culminating in her suicide; cutting her wrists and drowning in a mixture of her blood and water.

In the final act, the asylum is in a state of panic, one of its inmates is possessed. Wheeled onto the stage, Father Josef begins an exorcism on the poor soul, but no sooner has he begun than his assistant, a nun, is also possessed.

The show climaxes with her climbing – in a display of great acrobatic skill – to the dome of the tent, where, walking upside down on it’s roof, bearing an inverted crucifix, she pours holy water on the possessed inmate below. It’s not long before the entire asylum has turned into zombies and ghouls, hungry to take their revenge on Dr. Josef.