Belfast Telegraph reporter very cagey about entering Cirque Berserk Globe of Death but lives to tell the tale
As Cirque Berserk roars in to town for a week-long run at the Grand Opera House, with its exhilarating mix of skills and stunts, the Belfast Telegraph got a better than ringside seat for some death-defying action.
Standing in the middle of a metal cage with motorbikes circling around and above me is certainly no average way to spend an afternoon.
But that was the hair-raising introduction I got when I met the spell-binding cast of Cirque Berserk, which has zoomed into Belfast and is taking up residence at the Grand Opera House this week.
The contemporary circus show is created especially for the theatre, and every moment is carefully choreographed to make sure the audience gets a jaw-dropping experience.
Among the thrills is one of the world's most dangerous circus acts, the motorcycle daredevil stunt called Globe of Death. And I was lucky enough - or mad enough - to try it out.
On arrival I was met with the ominous cage, tall and illuminated, on stage. The Lucius Team and their motorbikes were already whizzing around, warming up. In the live stage show, up to four ride in the globe at speeds of 60mph. Thankfully, for my experience there were only two - not that this made it any less daunting.
Within minutes I was whisked around to the back of the cage and given my safety instructions. I was relieved to find out that Ana Paula Mendes, who has been doing this for nine years and is married to the stunt director, would be in the cage with me.
Before I knew it we were inside, the door was closed and the engines were revving once more.
I can't say I looked up much during the initial moments as I attempted to become accustomed to the bizarre and unnatural surroundings - and motorbikes flying around above my head.
But with the calming expertise of Ana Paula by my side, I relaxed and enjoyed the incredible spectacle. Once out of the cage I asked her if, after all these years, she still got scared in the Globe of Death.
She said: "Because it's a very dangerous act we need to be respectful of the motorbikes, because if something happens we need to know what to do. I'm still a little bit scared, but I am 100% confident in the boys." She also told me I did "very well" for my first attempt - which, I'll admit, I would happily have done again.
Cirque Berserk's front of house manager Winnie said the performers can't wait to get going in Belfast, as they were "bowled over" by the response last time.
He said: "They went crazy for it. We are here for a week this time and hopefully will get the same response again.
"We live it, breathe it and love it. Especially when you get a standing ovation, it's great to see the reaction on the performers' faces because they have worked hard."
Winnie said while taking a show like this to theatres across the country comes with its challenges, it's worth it: "Normally performers perform in a circus ring and they are used to their space, which is the same wherever they go, but in the theatres you have different sizes of stage. We have over 30 performers, with just under two hours of the best tricks of the creme de la creme."
Cirque Berserk is now on in the Grand Opera House, Belfast, and runs until Sunday.