Lafayette and Beauty
7th Jul 2015
You may have seen that the two magnificent tents at our brand new Circus Hub are called THE LAFAYETTE and THE BEAUTY. But do you know why? It's an incredible story from the history of circus...
They are named after a Victorian circus performer and illusionist called The Great Lafayette, and his performing dog Beauty.
Born Sigmund Neuberger, The Great Lafayette was one of the most successful performers of the age, and the highest paid magician of his time. Beauty was a perky terrier given the Lafayette by his friend Harry Houdini.
In 1911 Lafayette and Beauty travelled to Edinburgh to present a show at the Empire Theatre. Four days before the show was due to open Beauty passed away. Lafayette negotiated that she would be interred in Edinburgh’s Piershill Cemetery, but City Of Edinburgh Council allowed this only on the condition that on his own death, Lafyette would be buried there too.
Four days later, during the opening night performance, a lamp caught fire during Lafayette’s Lion’s Bride act – where a lady is transformed into a Lion. The elaborate set went up in flames in minutes.
Lafayette escaped the inferno, but returned to save his horse and perished, along with ten of his company.
The Empire theatre was reduced to rubble. Today the Edinburgh Festival Theatre stands on that site. Lafayette’s body was found and mistakenly sent to Glasgow for cremating. However workers soon discovered a second body in the rubble of the theatre, dressed in identical clothing. It transpired the body in Glasgow was Lafayett’e body-double.
Eventually the urn containing the real Lafayette’s ashes were taken through Edinburgh, witenssed by a crowd of a quarter of a million people, before being laid to rest in the paws of his dear Beauty in Piershill Cemetery.
Underbelly's Circus Hub is a celebration and a showcase of everything that the art of Circus can be: epic, intimate and utterly exhilarating. Take a look at the full line-up here.
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