The possibility of booking a ‘freak show’ for the St Peter’s Ball has caused consternation among the College’s students.
The ball committee is divided over whether the entertainment of the so-called ‘Circus of Horrors’, which features acts including a dwarf known as ‘Demon Dan’, and ‘Mongolian Laughing Boy’, who receives shocks in an electric chair, would be appropriate for the event.
A number of students at St Peter’s were shocked to hear about the plans, and one branded them “morally questionable”.
The ball committee were quick to deny that the performance was a freak show, despite being described on the company website as “The stupendous Carnival of the Bizarre with Doctor Haze and his Freak Show”.
Stephen Dunne, one of the ball committee presidents, emphasised that the act was as yet unconfirmed and said, “They are a professional unit, for whom the members choose to work.” He conceded that “you could argue against the ethics of the act”, but that the members “do not ‘humiliate’ themselves during the show”.
Some of the acts have been seen as too “gruesome or macabre” to be featured. Roger Sibley, a representative of Carters Entertainment Limited, who help put on the shows, told Cherwell that dwarf Demon Dan’s talents include “stapling playing cards to his face” and “pulling a hoover around with a part of his body that’s not his hands”.
He commented, “That’s one for the adult audience”.
Natalie Fox, St Peter’s other ball president, said that the committee were free to choose who would perform. She explained, “We’ve decided against some of the worst ones, like this guy who can put kebab skewers through his cheeks.”
Fox admitted that, “Some people are unsure about whether they would want to watch it”.
Tegan McLeod, an English student at St Peter’s, said, “For me the idea seems voyeuristic and exploitative. It’s exhibiting human oddities for a profit.
“Though some may argue it’s a performance art, I think it’s really hard to deny that this type of show is a form of social discrimination.”
Nonetheless, the committee currently intend to go ahead and book the Dr Haze’s group for the ball.
Dunne defended the decision, saying the College would only book “people who do not self harm or who would not cause any lasting emotional damage to the audience.
“They provide a massive spectacle, a great talking point, and are something that will make the St Peter’s Ball truly different to all other balls.”