Miss Behave: Eyes on the prize for group hysteria

Miss Behave’s back with a quiz show that makes you forget how crap everything is, she tells Claire Smith

THE first time Miss Behave came to the Fringe she performed in a freak show alongside a dwarf, a famous punk guitarist and a ringmaster from one of Edinburgh’s toughest schemes.

She’s been a street performer, a comic, a circus act and a sword swallower, performing everywhere from fetish clubs to festivals to The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Now she’s created Miss Behave’s Gameshow – a mutant quiz which envelops the audience in a joyous state of anarchy.

“It’s about being whoever you are. And I like that,” she says. “I love non-exclusivity. I love to work with group hysteria. The Gameshow is a metaphor for life. The idea that we can all start being silly together and make people forget about how crap everything is. Everything is f***ed. Let’s live.”

Miss Behave, in gold spangled jumpsuit, turban and vertiginous heels, charms, cajoles and scolds her audience in front of a lo-fi jumble of cardboard props. Despite moving to a swanky venue this year she has refused to upgrade her set. “I am keeping the cardboard. I love cardboard. It is all about DIY. Let’s have a laugh.”

Unlike other shows, which ask you to switch off your phones, Miss Behave’s Gameshow invites you to bring yours along – and to Tweet, Facebook and Snapchat your way through the night. “I have always struggled with social media – but it’s here and it’s rewiring our brains,” she says. “Why not work with it?”

Fortunately, Miss Behave’s aide de camp, Harriet, is a child of the digital age. Harriet, aka Harry Clayton Wright, is a coquettish, lipstick-and-underpants-wearing freaky dancer whom she first uncovered in Blackpool. “He made me laugh for an hour. If Kenny Everett and the internet had had a baby it would have been Harriet.”

Miss Behave began performing in the West End of London, where she handed out flyers at the age of 13. She was an angry teenager – annoyed at being transplanted from cosmopolitan St Paul’s in Bristol to suburban Finchley. But she found her tribe in the world of showbiz.

The former Steiner School pupil was fascinated by freak shows and trained herself to swallow swords. For her first Edinburgh she joined the Kamikaze Freak Show, alongside John Kamikaze, penis strong man Bulk Haulage, Dan the Dwarf and Big John from The Exploited. After entering The Guinness Book Of Records for swallowing a record five swords, she says: “I became the go-to girl for ‘Don’t try this at home’.”

Then in Australia she joined the gang of circus, cabaret and comedy performers who became La Clique. “I travelled with La Clique and La Soiree. It was an amazing, magical, wonderful time,” she says. “These things come along once in a lifetime if you’re lucky. People really wanted glamour and excitement. I ended up being the showgirl and also the clown.”

Miss Behave left La Soiree to form The Crack, a comedy and variety show with a party atmosphere. Then she developed The Mess, which was all about spontaneity, before setting up Glastonbury Mavericks, a late-night mishmash of cabaret, circus and comedy.

At Glastonbury she contracted meningitis, but recovered enough to be planning a Las Vegas show with Scott Capurro and Cal McCrystal when the whole thing fell through and Miss Behave found herself not quite firing on all cylinders, and at an loose end.

She headed back to Australia – to the Garden of Unearthly Delights, the biggest venue in the Adelaide Fringe. “I called Adelaide and asked if I could have a little tent. It was in that first $5 tent that I put together the Gameshow.”

Audiences loved Gameshow, loved the freedom of a show where they could yell out, disco dance, reveal their sexual secrets or just sit quietly in a corner. “There is a spirit of fun and play,” says Miss Behave. “It does feel like people are about to kick off. It doesn’t have to be violent or nasty but it feels like people need to express themselves more. But it is not compulsory. Anyone can do whatever they like.”

Miss Behave’s Gameshow, Assembly Checkpoint, 10.15pm, until 29 August / listings

Published in Scotland on Sunday on 9 August 2015

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