THE BEDLAM BROTHERS CIRCUS
The Bedlam Brothers’ Circus Stunt Show is a show designed for a collaborative design class as part of the Masters Themed Entertainment Design program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I was the team's show writer and completed the full show treatment. Shelly Martin, also a Themed Entertainment MFA student, completed the storyboards, featured below. Her LinkedIn page can be found here.
This show is designed for a stage of approximately 16,000 sq ft (the size of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios) with a THRC of 2,200 guests/hr.
We file into an enormous, classic-style circus tent, navy and gold stripes lit by the glow of several unfocused spotlights. An enormous, red circus ring is laid out on the dirt floor in the center of the space with a gleaming proscenium behind it, colored in rich shades of purples, reds, and golds. The show is clearly not ready to begin. The general mess and paraphernalia indicative of setting up for a circus, is spread throughout the tent. Crates and prop boxes litter the ring, along with lion trailers, costume carts, and bales of hay. Various roustabouts mill around, sweeping up or hanging rigging. Every once in a while, a clown crosses the ring, applying makeup or adjusting their wig.
We take our seats along rows of wooden benches beneath dozens of wooden catwalks, ladders, and platforms. A string of bare light bulbs circles the room, twinkling cheerfully. The atmosphere is well-worn, comfortable, and anticipatory: something is about to happen.
Eventually, a squat, irritable looking female clown enters the ring, scribbling on a clipboard. Her yellow clown hair is tied up in curlers, her face paint is applied in a permanent scowl, and rather than a red clown nose made of rubber, she has a single red dot painted on the end of her own bulbous nose. She looks up, surveying the audience, as though trying to count us all. She huffs something under her breath about nobody expecting this many people to show up for auditions. She then introduces herself as Bubbles, the gregarious clown. We’ve only got about 20 minutes until the show starts, she informs us, because somebody put off auditions for the new acts until the last minute. And because the Ringmaster is nowhere to be found (she gives a pointed cough at this), she herself will be holding auditions.
For the remainder of the time, Bubbles calls various audience members onstage, auditioning them for acts in the circus such as the juggler, the contortionist, the strongman, and the trained seal.
Just as she finishes up with the last of these, a short and flustered looking figure marches into the ring to meet her.
“Bubbles!” he hisses, in a whisper that carries through the whole circus tent. “What are you doing?! I’m the Ringmaster, I do the auditions!”
“Well, yes, but…”
“This is not the time for excuses! Now shoo, shoo!” At that, the Ringmaster scoots her out of the ring, scowls in her direction, then turns to face the audience. He gives a simpering, apologetic smile, then looks up to where a tech booth is presumably hidden and gives a severe gesture for “kill the lights!” Everything goes dark.
SCENE 1 (Main Show) – AUDITIONS BEGIN
A dramatic roll of timpani thunders through the tent and the spotlights, right on cue, abruptly begin to shine around the tent, as though in search of something to highlight. All at once, they converge on an red and yellow-striped pedestal in the center of the ring, where the Ringmaster has appeared in a shower of confetti that he himself has thrown into the air.
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, clowns, elephant riders, fire breathers, acrobats, and all you other people, to the Bedlam Brothers Circus: The Best Show in the World! I’m just tickled pink that you all could make it for auditions today. Unfortunately, we are running a little short on time today, as you can tell, so we’re going to just jump right into auditions. Then we can get you all suited up and ready for the show!”
He tugs his black jacket in delight and extracts a roll of parchment from his pocket, which unfurls to be roughly twice the height of him. He consults it, and then promptly announces that the acrobatic auditions are up first, so if he could ask the Flying Fontaines to come down and show them the ropes…
The ringleader never gets to finish his sentence. With a loud whoop, four figures come zooming in over our heads, suspended on trapezes. It’s the Flying Fontaines, - Fannie, Fabien, Fiona and Frank, a French family of acrobats, bent on mischief and good fun. They swoop in a wide arc down to the ring, never touching the ground. One of the Fontaines, Fanny, comes in straight at the Ringleader, and knocks him cleanly off the pedestal and into the air.
He squeals as the acrobat carries him up with her into the rigging, whirling and spinning as they go. With terrified shouts of “put me down”, “I’ll have your jobs for this,” and “help!”, the Ringmaster is passed between the four Fontaines, who all seem to be having a tremendous amount of fun. They toss him first by his hands, then by his ankles, incorporating him smoothly into a well-rehearsed act.
In a final spurt of fun, Fabien swings towards Frank, ready to pass off the Ringmaster one last time, but he misses. The Ringmaster somersaults through the air, yelping and flailing, and then plummets out of sight, straight into the elephant trailer. We hear the trumpeting bellow of an elephant and the stomping of enormous hooves. An instant later, the door bangs open and the Ringmaster staggers out, disheveled and battered, with bits of hay sticking out of his hair and mustache.
“That’s it!” he shrieks. “I quit!”
An older clown silently approaches the Ringmaster, looking weathered and complacent.
"This is the last straw!" shouts the Ringmaster. The older clown picks a piece of straw out of the Ringmaster's hair.
The Ringmaster shoves his lion taming whip into the clown's chest and says that he, Chuckles, has been here the longest, so why doesn't he take over?? And at that, he turns on his heel, storms out of the tent flap, and disappears.
SCENE 2 - CHUCKLES’ COSTUME CHANGE
Chuckles looks down at the whip, then up at the audience, then back down again as it dawns on him. A beaming smile grows on his face. He pantomimes cheering. He looks down at his dingy clown costume, seems to deem it unsuitable, and then leaps off to the side, into a costume box. He springs out an instant later, clad in a rodeo cowboy costume. He shakes his head at the change, but gives the whip a lasso-spin around his head nonetheless, then leaps back into the box. This time, he jumps out in the slinky, sequined costume of the elephant rider. He poses with his hands on his hips at the sound of a wolf whistle from the audience. One final time, Chuckles bounds into the costume box and reemerges finally in the Ringmaster's costume, too-small pants and sleeves stretched over his lanky frame. He takes a bow.
SCENE 3 - CLEAN UP YOUR ACTS
Just then, the squat figure of Bubbles gamboles into the ring, looking irate. She insists that this is a disaster, and how could things get any worse? Now there's no one to run auditions and the Bedlam Brothers, the founders of this circus, are coming today to see the show and there's no way they can be ready in time now! As she rants, several of the other acts wander into the ring, practicing their acts and warming up. Bubbles taps her chin, thinking. Chuckles opens his mouth to speak, but Bubbles cuts him off.
"No, Chuckles, it's preposterous. It could never work. I could never take over for the Ringmaster." Chuckles tries once more to speak and is once more cut off. "Well, but since we have no other option..." She snatches the whip gleefully from Chuckles and whirls on the other performers.
Barking like a tyrant, she snaps at them all that they only have twenty minutes until the Bedlam Brothers arrive, and with auditions to get through, to boot! So if everyone expects to keep their jobs and not get replaced by some of these new guys [she gestures to the audience], it's time to step up your game!
Two performers in particular seem to have a more prominent position among the rest in the ring. One, CLAUDE THE HUMAN COMET, is tall and muscular, dressed in a white spangled jumpsuit with a swoop of dark, Elvis-like hair on his head. The other, MARVIN THE MAGNIFICENT MANCINI, is dressed more formally in a sequined suit and red bow tie, a tophat tucked under his arm. He has a smaller frame and a rather twitchy demeanor. Bubbles turns to the two of them, eyes narrowed.
"And you two! Marvin! Claude! You're supposed to be our headline acts. And you know what? Your acts are stale! They're tired. Claude, when is the last time your “death defying acts” actually defied death? Yeah, that’s what I thought. And Marvin, until you can levitate something better than a bubble, I am NOT impressed. If I had my way, we'd only keep one of you in our show. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bedlam Brothers feel the same way, when they get here. Ramp up your acts, or one of you is getting the boot!" At that, she stalks off.
Marvin and Claude glare, circling each other slowly in a old-West style standoff. They have a brief exchange wherein each insists that the other would be the one to get cut, and "what you do isn't so hard." Marvin, losing his temper, starts pulling handfuls of doves out of his sleeves and hat.
Finally, as if reaching a glitch in his magic, a bunny appears on Marvin’s head, feet flopped over his forehead. Marvin turns his nose up, saying that he needs to go get a much bigger hat, leaving Claude in the ring, muttering about how much better daredevils are than magicians.
SCENE 4 - THE MOTORCYCLE STUNT
Claude pulls out an old, battered motorcycle from amidst the clutter of circus props, an outdated bike that looks roughly 30 years old, and begins to cycle around in circles, psyching himself up.
Just then, the FIREBREATHER appears, a punked-out, hard-edge girl with black lipstick and a thick collage of tattoos covering her arms. She rubs her nose, sniffling.
"I can't believe Bubbles made me clean up the lion cage," she whines to Claude. "Doesn't she know I'm allergic to cats?"
Claude, looking puzzled, asks if lions count. The Firebreather looks puzzled, then looks like she’s about to sneeze, but holds it in. Claude continues cycling, riding over small ramps, getting a foot or two of air on each. As he practices, a motorcade of clown cars putters into the scene, honking and squeaking. Bubbles the clown leans out of the first car with a megaphone and shouts at Claude, her voice obnoxiously amplified, "You call that an act? My great aunt Twinkle's hip surgery was more exciting!"
Claude, visibly frustrated, runs up to the last clown car in the line, a tiny fire engine, as Bubbles zooms off. With a grunt, he yanks the engine out of the car, forcing the clowns inside to pick up the vehicle and walk off with it, Flintstones-style. Claude takes the engine, attaches it to his battered bike, and gives a self-affirming shout of delight.
Now he is able to zoom around the ring at top speeds in his amped-up motorcycle, soaring off the ramps at heights of nearly ten feet. Meanwhile, the Firebreather is still nearby, still sniffling, along with a handful of other acts, practicing and warming up. One acrobat, who had been idly hula-hooping, pauses to take a drink of water and holds the hula hoop out at his side. Just as Claude is about to sail over another ramp, the Firebreather gasps haltingly, about to sneeze.
With a blast like a flare gun, the Firebreather's sneeze shoots a burst of flames at the hula hoop, which consequently catches on fire. Too late to slow his momentum, Claude careens through the hoop with a startled, "Ah!" Miraculously, he makes it, now hurtling towards a quarter-pipe ramp. Riding up and back down this incline, Claude is propelled backwards, back towards the flaming hoop, which the acrobat is still holding out.
The acrobat lowers the hoop in surprise...just low enough to catch Claude again. The daredevil flies through a second time, this time facing away from it, still screaming comically. This time through the hoop, Claude isn't so lucky and his suit catches on fire, little flames burning in patches on his arms. He attempts to beat these out as his bike blasts around the ring, performing incredible stunts off the tops of animal cages and costume racks, spinning crazily around a wagon wheel left on the ground and up into the proscenium.
Without the use of their fire engine, the firefighter clowns scramble around the ring on foot with seltzer bottles, trying without success to extinguish Claude. Just when it seems that the flaming daredevil is completely out of control, Chuckles rushes onto the scene with a bucket of water and douses Claude. His improvised motorcycle putters to a halt and Claude stumbles off, dripping wet, charred and blackened, but no longer flaming.
Several acrobats hanging out of the rigging are laughing raucously and pointing at Claude. A lion cage is being wheeled into the ring and even one of the lions is laughing. Marvin stands amongst it all, doubled over and wheezing with mirth.
"Hey, hey Claude!" he gasps. "Maybe they should call you Claude the Human Marshmallow. Get it? Get it? Do you get it, Claude?"
Bubbles bustles angrily into the middle of the ruckus.
"What in the name of Barnum's saggy blue balloons is going on!?" she thunders. "Claude! Go get cleaned up, you're a dripping mess. And you lot!" she glares around dangerously at the acrobats in the rigging and the other idling acts, who all abruptly stop laughing. "The Bedlam Brothers are going to be here in 15 minutes! Either shape up or ship out, we're running on borrowed time here, people!"
There is a sudden flurry of activity as the performers all scramble away. The Firebreather is among them, but has to stop, as it seems she is about to sneeze. A nearby clown hands out a handkerchief to her, which she accepts and sneezes into with a short burst of flames. She hands back the handkerchief to the clown, which disintegrates into a crumble of ashes.
SCENE 5 -THE JUGGLERS
"Chuckles!" Bubbles barks at the older clown, who had been slinking off. "Get your tookus in gear, we've got jugglers to audition! Bring them out!"
Similar to the audience-involvement of the preshow, Bubbles and Chuckles tag-team bringing the same audience members from before onto the stage. An eager group of helper clowns lends their aid, tossing various props at the audience members to juggle.
As the hilarity of the juggling reaches an uproarious climax, Marvin Mancini rushes into the ring, sequined cape flapping behind him.
SCENE 6 - DISAPPEARING LIONS
"Hold everything, hold everything. I have the next big idea. I’m going to blow your minds. I’m going to vanish your minds. No, wait, that’s not the point, I’m going to vanish something much bigger. Here here, let me show you…”
Bubbles warns him that they don’t have time for his shenanigans, the Bedlam Brothers are going to arrive any second, but Marvin assures her that they have time for this.
The bedazzled magician scrambles haltingly to the lion cage, with the air of someone trying to contain his nerves. He whips off his cape and begins to wave it dramatically in front of the barred window of the lion cage.
“Gone are the days of disappearing tiny, adorable animals, my friends! That was the old Marvin. This is the new and improved and spectacular and better-than-Claude Marvin! I will now make these lions DISAPPEAR. Feast your eyes on THIS! WaaAAAHHHHH!”
At the word “this,” Marvin waves his cape over to the side and there is an infinitesimal, comical beat in which the lions, not disappeared, look at Marvin. The bars on the window of their cage have been vanished instead. The next instant, the four lions spring out of the open window, bowling Marvin over and roaring ferociously. The small band of clown musicians down front begin to play a rousing, jig-like melody with a driving drumbeat.
The performers in the ring all scream and panic, some trying to climb the tightrope poles, others hiding anywhere they can find, including behind clowns. Bubbles takes off running as fast as her stubby legs will carry her. Marvin, tangled in this cape, waves his wand in a feverish, indiscriminate frenzy, his eyes bulging. Mostly, this simply results in puffs of smoke, but some of his magic spells hit their mark. As a lion charges towards him, he waves his wand and the lion, enveloped in the same magic smoke, vanishes. The next instant, the lion reappears on the catwalk above, charging angrily out of sight.
Marvin tries again as the circus performers continue to run in panic. His wand connects with another lion, which disappears and reappears back in the proscenium, on top of a small clown, who squeals in terror. More puffs of smoke and the last two lions disappear. It’s not clear where they reappear, but an ominous roars resound from backstage.
In the midst of the chaos, the Firebreather runs off with a shout of “catch those lions!” and all the remaining performers scramble off to help. The lion from the proscenium bolts out of sight while another appears on top of the elephant cage. Lions are disappearing and reappearing at an alarming rate.
In the minute that follows, performers and lions charge back and forth, criss-crossing each other on every level of available space at top speeds. The Flying Fontaines chase a lion back behind a curtain; the next second, they appear again running the other way, the lion chasing them instead. The clowns in the fire engine join in the chase, still running with the car pulled up around them. The Firebreather can be seen, chasing back and forth as well, occasionally pausing to sneeze. Whenever she does, the area around her lights up. As she runs back behind various curtains, the light from her sneezes illuminates the massive figures of the escaped lions.Through it all, the clown band continues to play their frantic jig, adding to the cacophony.
Marvin is still a tangled mess in the center of the ring, slashing his wand in circles through the air, only managing to make things worse. Finally, as the chase reaches a fever pitch, Chuckles runs into the mix. Dramatically, with the pained determination of a man jumping in front of a gun, Chuckles leaps at Marvin, pinning him to the ground and preventing him from vanishing any more lions; all of the lions are temporarily out of sight.
Bubbles stomps into the ring. “Marvin Mancini, you bring those lions back, and you bring them back right now!”
Chuckles backs away slowly and Marvin winces. “Um...a magician never reveals his secrets?” Skittishly, he jumps to his feet and scampers off.
SCENE 7 - SMALL BUT MIGHTY
Bubbles gives an outburst of frustration, whirling on the other performers in the ring. The remaining people are wheezing and out of breath, exhausted and battered from the lion chase. “This is not a joke, people! The Bedlam Brothers are going to be here any minute!
We’re almost out of time, but we need to audition the strongman. Eeeeverybody loves a good strongman.”
Chuckles runs to her side, opening his mouth to speak, but Bubbles cuts him off. “Not now, Chuckles, bring out our strongmen!”
Much like the juggling out, Chuckles brings out the strongmen audience members from the preshow and the helper clowns bring out a set of barbells. As they facilitate this audition, the larger of the two audience members is completely unable to lift the barbells off the ground, to which Bubbles makes some quick-witted jabs. However, the smaller of the two can lift the barbells with ease, and is announced: hired!
As these audience members take their seats, Bubbles checks a pocket watch, gasps, then barks out her next order: “Fontaines, you’re up! We need to run your act to make sure it’s up to snuff. Hit the ropes!”
SCENE 8 - THE WHEEL OF DEATH
As the Fontaines begin climbing the ropes and ascending into the rigging, Marvin and Claude enter the ring from opposite sides. Claude is still a bit charred here and there and Marvin has a large bite taken out of his cape. The two try to brush nonchalantly past each other, but end up bumping shoulders.
"Hey, watch it!"
"You watch it!"
"Listen, you," growls Claude, "I am not the one getting the boot! I'm not! I can't! So you and your little card tricks can just stay out of my way!"
"Card tricks!? Well excuse me, mister 'taking out the garbage is a death defying stunt!"
"...those banana peels were lethal, I'm telling you..."
"You're...you're nothing but a...[Marvin draws himself up, puffing out his chest]...wannabe!" He glances up at the Fontaines, you are running their act on a German Swing.
"Just throw in the towel and become an acrobat, Claude - even the Flying Fontaines have a more dangerous act than you!"
Claude flails his arms exasperatedly. "The Fontaines!? That's it!" Claude marches angrily to stand beneath the practicing acrobats, where the German Swing is swaying like a giant pendulum. When it pitches towards him, Claude grabs a hold and yanks it down, to indignant yells of "hey!" from the Fontaines. He also grabs a Russian wheel, which is lying propped up against a bale of hay. And with the two pieces of equipment in hand, he sprints just out of sight, behind the elephant cart.
Marvin cackles, exclaiming that Claude has given up, and insists that everyone focus on him instead. He whips out a large, rusty saw and asks for volunteers to be sawed in half. There is a frantic, crazed energy to the nervous magician. As the rest of the performers back away from Marvin nervously, the sound of a power drill and hammer carries into the ring. A second later, Claude reappears, brandishing a new, deadly-looking contraption, roughly twenty feet long and ten feet wide, which he obviously just constructed from the wheel and the swing. The mechanism is an overlarge scissor-like structure, with two giant wheels on either end.
He swings the contraption over his head like a monolithic baton. "I call this," he proclaims, "The Wheel of Death! Behold!"
Claude takes a strap from the center of the Wheel of Death and throws it like a lasso-grappling hook up into the rigging. It catches, and as the Wheel is hoisted up into the air, Claude jumps into one of the rings with an anticipatory grin. Nothing happens. Claude is left standing motionless in the ring, looking rather foolish.
Bubbles barks at him to get down from there and Marvin laughs hysterically, still gripping his saw, but Claude insists that he knows this will work! Egged on by the laughter, he starts pushing desperately against the side of the wheel, so it swings back and forth. Marvin, doing his best to ignore the stuntman, starts waving the saw over his head, running in circles through the ring.
"I'm going to saw someone in half! I am, I really am! Who volunteers!?"
His path takes him too close to the Wheel of Death, however, and he trips. Tumbling like one of the three stooges, Marvin lands comically inside the ring opposite Claude. Now, with the mechanism properly weighted, the Wheel spins into action. The entire structure rotates in a massive circle on its center axis, while the two outer rings now each spin on their own as well. Claude keeps up with it, theatrically pumping his arms like a macho man. Marvin, however, is not as coordinated. The spinning wheel throws him around its orbit; every time it seems like he might have his feet under him, the centripetal force knocks him over again. Eventually, he gives up trying to stay upright and just clutches onto the rim of the wheel for dear life as it spins, faster and faster.
Bubbles, oblivious to Marvin's terror, surveys the functioning wheel from the ground.
"Oh," she says satisfactorily. "This is good. I've got to add it to the set list." And she
walks offstage, leaving Marvin yelling for help.
The wheel picks up speed and as it does, even Claude begins to look a bit nervous, panting now to keep up with the spinning. Marvin yells louder than ever waving his wand to save himself, but to no avail. Bouquets of silk flowers burst out of his jacket, along with a white rabbit and several puffs of purple smoke, but the magician is not able to magic himself to safety.
An ominous creaking sound is followed the sudden appearance of sparks along the handmade Wheel of Death. The contraption groans, swaying as it spins, clearly falling apart. Chuckles runs back and forth underneath the two performers, ready to catch either of them if they fell.
SCENE 8 - FINAL WARNING
As it appears that total destruction of the wheel is imminent, sparks flying in every direction, Bubbles returns, brandishing her clipboard and the whip.
"We're out of time, we're out of time! The Bedlam Brothers are almost here!"
Various performers scramble in every direction and the Wheel of Death, pushed past its shoddily-made limits, finally falls over with a resounding bang. Both Marvin and Claude are dumped out onto the floor. Chuckles, arms outstretched, manages to miss both of them.
Behind Bubbles, the Fontaines are getting tangled up in the rigging, lions sporadically bolt across the ring, and the Firebreather keeps sneezing. Various patches of fire around the tent don't go out, but continue to burn brighter.
Bubbles, in the midst of the clamor, turns to Marvin and Claude and puts her hands on her hips like a disapproving schoolteacher, scowling disappointedly at both of them.
"And you too! Maybe it's time for TWO new headline acts!"
A manic look of desperation takes over Claudes face and he jumps to his feet.
"You've gotta give me one last chance, I'll do anything! ANYTHING!" Looking like a caged rabbit, he shoots a look from side to side. He spots a large barrel marked "gunpowder," sitting idly beside a large cannon amongst the props. A roustabout walks behind Claude, holding a spotlight on a long pole. As the light passes behind Claude's head, it lights up.
"I've got it!"
He sprints to the barrel, hoists it up, and begins dumping the dark powder into the cannon. The entire tent is filled with movement and activity, but all eyes are on Claude.
"You want a stunt?! I'll give you a stunt!! I’ll give you the biggest spectacle you’ve ever seen!" After emptying the barrel into the cannon, he clamors in, feet first, and straps on his daredevil helmet with the utmost seriousness.
Bubbles is jogging through the ring, waving her arms. “Places everybody, places! They’re almost here! Bring out the sets! Get to your places!”
SCENE 9 - CALAMITY CLIMAX
The acts that are left scurry throughout the ring. Clown cars trundle around, honking, and a lion peaks its head out from behind a crate. The Fontaines all climb into the rigging, several clowns drag a pool of water out under the tightrope, and the FIrebreather blows her nose.
Claude, meanwhile, pays no attention to this. From inside the cannon, he shouts, “Somebody light the fuse!"
The clowns in the band down below nudge each other and begin to play a dramatic, climactic tune with a serious drumbeat, underlaid with the circus charm. The Firebreather pauses beside the cannon. "Don't do it, Claude, that's too much gunpowder, it's not worth it! It’s not..."
She never gets to finish, but instead, is caught by another sneeze.
The burst of flaming sneeze blasts at the back of the cannon and ignites the fuse. There is a great, explosive noise like a firework and Claude is shot out of the cannon like a rocket. Several clowns have to duck as Claude fires over their heads. And in the next instant, he smacks against the side of the tent and sticks like fly on flypaper. Chuckles winces sympathetically.
The firebreather is having a sneezing fit. Each sneeze jerks her in a different direction so that she is spewing fire like a demonic sprinkler. A bale of hay catches on fire along with several crates, and at last, one of the acrobatic silks, which begins to burn towards the tightrope like a slow fuse.
The fire engine clowns run in circles, overwhelmed by the amount of fire. Bubbles tries to beat out the flames with her skirt, but only makes them burn brighter, but Chuckles points to Claude in horror. All eyes swivel in that direction.
The stuntman, stuck to the tent face-first and upside down, has started to slowly peel off. Right underneath him, preposterously placed, is a prop we may not have noticed until now: a rack of swords, all facing point up. They glint in the light of the spotlights, appearing comically sharp as Claude peels away from the tent, right above them. Chuckles clasps his face in a pantomime of “oh no!” With a final noise like a band-aid being ripped off, it seems like Claude has met his untimely end...but suddenly, he freezes.
Marvin the Magnificent Mancini has leapt into the spotlight, his wand held outstretched, a look of pure determination of his face. Claude is suddenly floating, levitated above the sword rack by Marvin, bobbing slightly in the air. Every performers has halted in their tracks, wide-eyed and holding their breath. It is difficult to say who looks more shocked, Marvin or Claude.
“Marvin, you’re levitating me!”
“I’m levitating you!”
Marvin walks slowly backwards, keeping Claude aloft, unaware of the flaming bale of hale right behind him. Fabien Fontaine spots this danger and swoops down on his trapeze, just as Marvin trips. The shocked stillness brought on by Marvin’s feat of magic ends abruptly: Marvin loses his balance as his cape catches on fire, Claude plummets through the air, Fabien grabs his beneath the arms and swings his towards the tightrope.
Marvin, alarmed by his blazing cape, takes off running, flailing his arms. Just as Fabien and Claude reach the tightrope, a lion unexpectedly drops out of the rigging onto the wire. Fabien yelps and accidentally drops Claude onto the tightrope with the lion.
Marvin, still blindly trashing, crashes headlong into the proscenium, which moans and begins to tip over. Meanwhile, the silk that the Firebreather caught on fire is burning closer and closer to the tightrope.
Claude stands frozen on the tightrope, looking alternatively between the approaching fire, the nearby lion, and the fall to the ground. The four Fontaines try to help put out the fires, spinning down out of the silks and hoisting up the clowns with seltzer bottles to get better coverage on the flames. Marvin, whose cape has gone out by now, continues to run and scream without pausing to check; several clowns see this and double over laughing. A lion jumps on top of Bubbles, pinning her to the ground. The slow burning lyra silk has almost burnt all the way through the tightrope. Claude and the lion look at each, hug, and then jump of together, plummeting into the pool below.
The circus is in pandemonium. The fire is everywhere and most of the performers are in danger.
Fanny Fontaine, who had been swinging through the silks to avoid the fire, suddenly loses her footing and becomes tangled, dangling precariously. The remaining clowns who aren’t spraying the fire take notice and, without discussing it, jump into action, forming a human pyramid to save her. The pyramid sways unsteadily, just barely unable to reach Fanny.
The music from the clown band reaches an utter and complete climax and as it does, Chuckles rushes into the ring, dragging a massive fire hose with him. He unscrews the valve and a torrent of water comes streaming out, dousing the ground, the performers, and everything that was on fire. The noise and the music stop abruptly and the fires go out. Chuckles just so happens to be standing beneath Fanny Fontaine, who finally slips all of the way out of the rigging. The pyramid of clowns misses her, but the small acrobat falls squarely into the outstretched arms of Chuckles.
In the stillness that follows, it feels like a bomb has gone off. No one speaks, hardly daring to move. The performers glance at each other out of the corners of their eyes, realizing how disastrous the situation is. The Bedlam Brothers will be there any second and the circus is in shambles.
SCENE 10 - THE BEDLAM BROTHERS
And then, the first sound to break the silence, from the back of the audience comes resonating, slow applause. Clap….clap...clap…
Striding purposefully through the sea of audience members, two tall, well-dressed figures appear. They are dressed similarly, in suits and jackets, each with a mustache and each wearing a carnation in their lapel.
“That was brilliant,” one of them says.
“Positively smashing,” says the other.
“We loved it, didn’t we?”
“We loved it.”
Bubbles, still trapped beneath a snarling lion, looks up at them in shock.
“The Bedlam Brothers,” she stammers. “You...you...you were here!”
“We’ve been here the whole time,” nods one of the brothers. “And that was the most marvelous circus we’ve ever seen.”
“The most stupendous spectacle.”
“The most exhilarating extravaganza.”
“We can’t believe you thought to combine the acts in that way.”
“Couldn’t believe it at all.”
One of the brothers walks up to put an arm around Chuckles.
“You, my friend, have made it to the big time.”
“This is it.”
The other brother makes a picture frame with his hands around his eyes, envisioning the future.
“I can see it now…”
“...The Best Circus in the World!”
SCENE 11 - THE GRAND FINALE
And at those words, with a reprise of the musical theme heard throughout the show, the performers all converge in the ring, smiling and happy, charred and maybe a little wet, but excited nonetheless. The spotlights begin to around the tent, as though signaling that the show is about to start. And now...the show can finally start.
With the Bedlam Brothers facing the center of the ring, the performers begin to build into a bigger and better spectacle than ever. The clown who had previously stacked themselves to save Fanny reform their pyramid, all holding themselves up and helping the other to the top. The lions, not to miss out on the fun, scamper to the pyramid and join in as well.
The Fontaines, safely repositioned on their trapezes, swing in wide, graceful arcs around the forming pyramid, the light of the spotlights sparkling off their costumes. Chuckles helps Bubbles to her feet, who passes the Ringmaster’s whip to him, smiling. The firebreather is finally able to perform her act, a fierce dance of jumping and baton twirling, into which she smoothly incorporates her sneezes. Altogether, it feels like a curtain call and a celebration: a picture perfect moment. And Marvin and Claude, neither of them on fire, approach each other in front of the pyramid, smile, and shake hands. Marvin gestures questioningly with his wand, to which Claude responds with a double thumbs up. At that, Marvin levitates Claude into the air again, this time safely and on purpose. The stuntman turns flips and spirals in the air, reveling in his newest and greatest death-defying stunt.
The Bedlam Brothers now turn to face the audience, their hands in the air triumphantly, beaming and cheering. A banner drops from the ceiling behind them: “Bedlam Brothers: The Best Circus in the World.”