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bram stoker

The painless man and reptile queen: Meet one of Ireland's more unusual power couples

Kitty le Roux and Grim Squeaker are part of Bleedin’ Deadly, and plan to give you a bit of a scare this Halloween. / YouTube

WHILE YOU MIGHT know a few power couples, they probably don’t work as a snake charmer and painless man.

Meet Kitty le Roux and Grim Squeaker – one bills herself as a reptile queen and is often seen with Biggie, her favourite Burmese python, draped around her shoulders, while the other is a magician who can jam an iron nail up his nose.

Kitty also assures to those who are mildly terrified of snakes – this author included – that the reptiles are, in fact, friendly and intelligent (though some can have a habit of escaping), and they don’t want to hurt you.

“It was the start of an obsession”

She told of how she first fell in love with snakes as a teen while at a science show, but wasn’t allowed to have any at home. So when she moved out as an adult, Kitty seized her chance and got her first snakes.

Now, eight years later, she and her partner have an entire room in their house dedicated to 12 reptiles, including a python, a tortoise, a gecko and a bearded dragon.

“It was the start of a bit of an obsession at that stage,” she says of buying her first snake. “It wasn’t too long after that I got my Burmese python, Biggie. She was 5ft, now she’s nearly 13ft. She’s my sweetheart, she’s my princess.”

Many of the reptiles and snakes she has are rescues. “A lot would have health issues and stuff so some of them wouldn’t be too long lived,” she said.

At the same time as getting into reptiles she got into the burlesque scene, which involves performing in vintage pin-up gear. “I was thinking ‘oh wow, I wonder if there’s a gap there to do with the snakes’,” recalled Le Roux. She was chiefly worried whether performing would be fair on the snakes.

She began performing with the snakes every now and then, before it evolved into a more serious thing. She assures that when it comes to performing, the animals take priority.

“If the animals aren’t happy or if I feel they are in any danger, or if they are in any way stressed, I remove them from the situation,” says Le Roux.

A lot of these animals I would have for years so I would know them very well – so I would be able to recognise if they are getting stressed. Their welfare is the most important thing. I would always make sure they are happy enough, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing. If I feel the animal is in any way in danger or any way unhappy that’s that.

By day, Grim works as a facilitator at a charity, helping adults with autism. “I’ve used my training as an arts teacher to move into special needs care”, he said.

Once the day job is over, his attention turns to his alter ego, something he has been developing for years and was first sparked from a combination of insomnia, boredom, and ADHD when he stayed up late at night reading about and learning magic online.

“Once you start learning magic, you discover that your friends and colleagues really don’t like magic that much,” he said.

“You ask them to pick a card and they run away.”

He moved on to cabaret magic, before eventually developing his act into a freak or side show.

My act would be what’s called an unbreakable man or painless man. That’s a bit of a misnomer – it hurts like hell and I’m always broke.

Grim says that what he does can take a lot of training, and it’s mostly in teaching your body to stop natural reflexes kicking in during a dangerous situation.

“So when you’re learning to eat fire, you hand goes up and the fire gets closer, but your body decides to jerk it away.”

It takes constant work to get over that, he explained, but he still has a number of safety mechanisms built-in should anything go wrong.

Kitty and Grim grew closer as they started frequently working together – Grim would be tasked with finding interesting or bizarre people, and one of those people he could call on was a burlesque dancer with several reptiles.

Helping with Biggie

Now they help out behind the scenes during each other’s acts – be it Grim helping to handle Biggie or Kitty acting as an assistant – and are developing some routines where they work together.

“We spur each other on,” Kitty said, explaining how they encourage each other to develop more complex and interesting performances.

They say the secrets to working together as a couple include leaving what happens at work there, and giving each other space when things get stressful.

Grim added that it’s important to simply enjoy it:

You’re spending the time doing what you want to do, with the person you want to be with.

Kitty Le Roux and Brian Grim Squeaker will perform alongside Coney Island performer Donny Vomit and Elaine Davidson – the world’s most pierced woman – at Bleedin Deadly, hosted by the Space Cowboy, taking place as part of the Bram Stoker Festival, from 28 – 31 October at the Pillar Room. For more details, see the Bram Stoker Festival website.

By Aoife Barry and Nicky Ryan

Read: The Harbour Bar in Bray has a brilliant Stranger Things wall for Halloween>

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