The Enigma and Serana Rose perform as the Show Devils at the Queen's Sunday (Nov. 27).

The Enigma and Serana Rose perform as the Show Devils at the Queen's Sunday (Nov. 27).

Circus sideshow comes to town

The Enigma, who, with Serana Rose, makes up Show Devils, a sideshow inspired by old-time circus shows

It’s not a computer-generated image and there are no special effects.

The guy you see on stage, pounding a nail into his face? He’s really doing that, risking permanent injury for your amazement.

“We basically do all the things your mother told you not to do,” said The Enigma, who, with Serana Rose, makes up Show Devils, a sideshow inspired by old-time circus shows of the 1850s to 1930s.

Back then, the circus offered something for everyone as it toured to small towns and villages across North America.

Kids could ride the ferris wheel, eat popcorn and see the animals; parents could gamble and test their skills at throwing balls or shooting; and the truly adventurous would veer off to the sideshow tent, where they would find human oddities and people performing great feats of daring and danger.

The Enigma and Serana Rose would be found in the last tent.

“If you wanted to know what was going on … you went to the circus,” The Enigma said. “We’re still out there, doing the strange, bizarre.”

Strange and bizarre includes tricks like sword swallowing and dangerous feats such as human blockhead, where nails are driven into the face.

They’re not illusionists or magicians, who use slight-of-hand and props. They really do get this close to a spark-spitting grinder.

“What you see is what you get … there’s no illusions,” The Enigma said.

While magic and illusion leaves viewers wondering how it is done, “In a sideshow, you wonder why it’s done,” he said.

But “show” is still a very big part of the event, with the stunts interspersed among goofy, crazy music and old-time jokes that your uncle might tell at picnics.

“We’re kind of renaissance folk that way,” he said.

The Enigma’s career began in a sideshow more than 20 years ago, touring with the Jim Rose Circus, which performed at Lollapalooza music festival in the 1990s. He was featured on an episode of the X-Files, recognizable for his head-to-toe, blue puzzle-piece tattoo.

Hundreds of tattoo artists from all over the world worked on his body, with new artwork still added regularly.

Complimenting the look with piercings and other body modifications, his appearance often generates questions.

“I don’t mind the questions as long as people don’t mind the answers,” he said.

The Show Devils perform Sunday (Nov. 27) at the Queen’s. The show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets $10/advance; $12/door. Please call 250-754-6751.

For more information, please visit www.showdevils.com.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com