Amy Saunders is better known on the scene as Miss Behave. And she does. I am trying to set up a meeting, and have pinned her down to a date when I get a call from the PR guy at The Wonderground. Amy has, he tells me, injured her neck in a 'freak accident' and won't make it to the meet.

In the past few years alone this amazing woman has kicked meningitis and bounced back, mistimed one of those bounces and smashed her heel, bounced back and co-produced the trailblazing peripatetic Bookshop venues at the Edinburgh Fringe and gone on to create her eponymous Game Show and now fallen foul of a ‘freak accident’. I suspect the vertiginous heels and tendancy to pull stunts like smashing a watermelon with her head don’t help the health and safety aspect of her professional life …

But when she appears onstage, crimson of lip, with glitter encrusted eyes, a tightly cinched waist and a potty mouth that can do things few others in the world can, she seems quite invulnerable … and in this world of onstage sex and sensuality she is probably the most challenging and complex of the Divas.

“I’m a hustler, ” she says, when we finally meet, over beers in a Wetherspoons that used to be the iconic Marquee on Charing Cross Road, “My roots are in the fetish scene and then there was a bit of Freak Show and then Street. I never really knew what I was.”

“A kinky turn on with skills?” I suggest

“I think I am pretty asexual onstage, ” she says.

“In skin tight rubber and blow me red lips?”

“With the tight rubber there are no nipples and there is no visible cunt. I become a sort of parody of a sexy cartoon.”

And to be fair, looking at her impressive list of press cuttings, I find that I myself have described her as “Betty Boop meets Marlene Dietriech.”

Which makes somewhat light of  her skills as one of a very few female sword swallowers in the world. “This woman could swallow for England” says no less than the Guiness Book of Records. And they should know.

We neck our cooking lager and continue …

“I didn’t know what I was and I was happy to self-destruct,” she says of her onstage start.  “You’re in your late teens, burnt out from nightclubs, brain fried on speed and you read a book about a sword swallower… realise you love sucking cock and you think, ‘I’ll be able to do that’. So I taught myself to do it. I didn’t exactly have a death-wish but… I’m lucky I am here.”

Part of the appeal of her onstage persona remained the danger. Not just the obvious risk of a tiny woman thrusting a sword, a table leg or a massive pair of dressmaking shears down her throat but the emotional/psychological frisson engendered by Amy herself as she Miss Behaved.

“I was one of those ‘everybody’s watching you self destruct up there’ acts. I would get fucked up with you… and then take it further…  I always had that real ‘on the edgeness’.”

Which stands her apart from a lot of what goes on in what she calls the ‘Smoosh’ that is the world of circus/cabaret/burlesque today. Not that she dislikes what is going on.

“Circus and contemporary dance are having a love affair, and it is helping contemporary burlesque.”

But Amy is all about pushing forward, pushing boundaries and taking the kind of risks you can only take in live performance.

“Australia has been bashing out an incredible amount of circus which bleeds into  burlesque and cabaret and it exists largely on the festival circuit, which actually means Australia, New Zealand and the UK.  It is the most interesting aspects of all three… it is the smoosh… here’s a skilled act, here’s a sexy act, here’s a skilled sexy act, here’s a funny sexy act, here’s a funny skilled act…”  I know by her body language that there is a ‘but’ coming. “But … if I was to hold the past next to the present I think the past did it better.  We are just not offering up anything new.”

I point out that they have, in this day of everything entertaining or exciting, to say nothing of arousing, seems to come to us on a screen of one size or another, the powerful and irrefutable frisson of being live. Which, in terms of raising anything from the hairs on the back of your neck downwards, packs a power that nothing on a screen can.

“The whole way we are now is impacting live performance. It is so much harder to get people into a live show. You can get ’em in with shock tactic – with the promise of a spectacle but 95% of shows that promise that will let you down. You see when an audience come in for shock, they are there then to watch the whole show and these are people used to airbrushing and photoshopping, used to hyper reality, to non-reality,  and so unless you really care about creating the whole experience then you will let them down. And they won’t ever come back.”

As we stop to recharge our glasses, Amy waxes worried about the world in which our eternally online entertainment seeking ‘yoof’ are living.

“There is a problem for kids who have grown up with online porn on tap.  Girls think that it’s OK to be treated like that and boys think thats how they have to behave.”  We suck the froth off our second pint. “There is a really high level of erectile dysfunction in boys under the age of 20” she informs me. “A friend of mine he spent some time with a couple of girls – they were under 20 and he was 30 – and they were really surprised because when they unzipped him he was ready to go and they’d never experienced that.”

Meanwhile, back at the subject in hand (as it were), Miss Behave’s Game Show is playing for one night only at the Wonderground having taken most of the rest of the world by storm. Anything goes here and just about everything has. If you have a mobile phone and you are not afraid to use it then you will love it.  If you don’t, then go anyway. It is a feast of fun, even for voyeurs.

“With the gameshow I have found a channel for me to be able to say what I believe” beams an increasingly enthusiastic Amy.  “I am here to give you good time. I roll with what works and I think everything is fucked so lets roll with that.”

Her work ethic is incredible. And she genuinely is about giving you – yes YOU – a thrillingly good time, “I think that generally we are not punching hard enough in live performance. We care more about back end than the actual work and we are risking the loss of any kind of authenticity. And live entertainment will go the same way as manufactured pop – a sausage factory.”

Brett Vincent recently said something to her that she deems “Fuckin’ genius”.

“He said we need to remarket ‘going out’.”  And she is on the case.  So never fear, if you let Miss Behave drag you  away from streaming Game of Thrones with a bottle of  Morrissons Malbec and a pizza,  you are assured of the full on, full fat, full of frisson live experience.

“I am here to facilitate other people’s good times” she says. “I’m in hospitality … every performer is.”

“We’re all whores.”


For more information about the Miss Behave Gameshow, click here and tickets for Miss Behave at Wonderland, here!


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