The exquisitely moustached showman Donny Vomit was just 14, visiting an Oklahoma County Fair, when he saw a man swallow a long balloon. Enraptured, he was genuinely disappointed to later learn that it was, of course, a magic trick — a deception. That today he chooses to open the show with that same trick is precisely to reassure the audience that everything else which follows — no matter how strange, odd, weird or bizarre it might appear — is all done for real.
Vomit — he insists it’s an old family name — later moved to New York, discovering the unique world of the Coney Island entertainments and the 'carnie' shows where all the ‘tricks’ were real. It was here that he teamed up with the beautiful ‘Princess of Peril’, the ‘world’s most adorable sword-swallower’ Heather Holiday — and, after some 4,000 performances there, the couple have brought their astounding skills to Edinburgh.
The pair have an interesting dynamic. Vomit is on stage the whole time, does all the talking (‘Don’t know whether to clap of throw up?’ he asks the audience at one point) and performs some genuinely awesome ‘tricks’ — such as his update of the old ‘Human Blockhead’ in which, instead of just hammering a nail up his nose (though he does that too), he uses a power drill. Heather Holiday, by contrast, says nothing, often departs the stage (sometimes for a glitzy costume change) and even acts as glamorous assistant — when she’s not swallowing a variety of swords or throwing knives, of course.
The dynamic works well, though; Vomit quickly builds a good rapport with the audience, while Holiday retains her air of mysterious, wondrous beauty. Audience members are, on several occasions, dragged up on stage to check the quality of the swords or to participate in a knife-throwing act — although, on this particular night, a young lad called Dan bravely volunteered in order to advertise his own Fringe show.
The ease with which Vomit and Holiday perform their outstanding acts — adding in plate spinning and a hula hoop routine just to keep themselves amused — is breathtaking. Less so is the Burlesque interlude provided by, on this occasion, Legs Malone. Despite the close historical interplay of the ‘freak’ and Burlesque shows, this seems an unnecessary pause - a lone, out-of-place titillation at odds with the main thrust of the evening.
Definitely not a show for the squeamish but, if you’re looking for a display of rare skill and talent, you’re unlikely to find anything to rival it at the Fringe this year.