Anna Chancellor and the Sword Swallower
(& the Erotic Review)

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'There is no such thing as chance
And what seems to us the merest accident
Springs from the deepest source of destiny.'

A SWORD SWALLOWER, Anna Chancellor and the Erotic Review. How, by chance, could these three be connected? You know that old truism about everybody being connected to everybody else. Six degrees of separation. That sort of thing. Surely these three can only tangle through some wilfully superimposed interconnectedness.

We were in Covent Garden, London on Saturday April 7th. A cold day, threatening rain. Then, just after 1pm, the sun came out and it was not the feeble sun of the winter water-colour palette. It had a real, oily warmth to it which seemed to hypnotise a small crowd gathered around a street performer in front of the colonnade.

She had laid a large black cloth on the ground. On it a cucumber, still in its packaging and label, black leather collars and chains, white plastic bone, a large white fluffy ball (was it a muff)? and a sword. The performer was compact and muscular. She was wearing a jump-suit printed with baby faces. Or was it just a vest? Did I imagine that she was also wearing leggings with arrows on them? Her hair was dyed a gaudy blond, short and straggly. Perhaps she had spent a considerable time arranging it thus. Perhaps not.

We waited. It wasn't clear exactly what she was going to do with her disparate props. She opened and closed a substantial grey moulded suitcase and remonstrated with persons who crossed her patch and didn't stop. The incurious ones. She stood on her hands, casually, wiggling her toes. I noticed that she had a gap between her front teeth. Since I once had such a gap, until my teeth were capped, I've always had a fellow feeling for those gap-toothed ones. My mother used to say it was a sign of luck. Does this make me an exile from fortune?

There began to be some tension to the preamble. Finally the performer explained that she was a sword swallower. An ancient art! Something you didn't see every day! I suppose that's why we stayed and not only because of the treacly sun. 'I've just come back to London, dear old London town,' she said. From the case she produced a pair of scissors and demanded paper. One observer gingerly held out her empty sandwich packaging and the sword swallower shivered the scissors through it with a flourish. Then she dangled the scissors down her throat: a tantalising hors d'oeuvre. 'You can keep the paper,' she said.

Preparing to swallow

Down the hatch

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