DESPITE performing acts with fire and machetes in small sideshows, Fremantle-born Lucky Hell used to feel the same as most people about sword swallowing – that it was crazy and unachievable.
That was until her Finnish boyfriend became adamant he wanted to learn sword swallowing, and when unsuccessful six weeks later, Lucky half-heartedly decided to give it a go.
“He had been desperately trying to get past the gag reflex and was really struggling so I picked it up, put it on my tongue and discovered I didn’t have the same reaction,” she said.
“It was such an accident and I thought, ‘bloody hell, I might be a sword swallower’. I remember the night so clearly and went to bed seeing my name in lights.”
After advice from Las Vegas sword-swallowing friends, Lucky spent a year studying anatomy and researching the history of the ancient act where Indian fakirs did it to prove their religious devotion.
“I didn’t swallow anything that whole year,” she said.
“There are two kinds of sword swallowers; ones who train for years to create the ability to do it and others who, for some weird reason, realise it’s quite physiologically possible for them.
“I went to my GP and he told me from a medical standpoint it wasn’t possible. He asked if I’d had a lot of acid reflux over the years and his theory is the flaps that protect the acid reflux are either not working as well as they should or I have some ability to control them.”
The tattoo-adorned Lucky, who is in the process of moving from Helsinki to the UK, has been sword swallowing professionally for seven years, starting when she was 27 years old, which proved daunting given that’s the age a circus artist might start to consider retiring.
She is living up to her name (her first name really is Lucky) and has not sustained any internal injuries from her chosen career.
“I think that comes down to being really aware of what you’re doing,” Lucky said.
“I know I make my job harder by wearing a corset and stilettos and doing the stripper moves with the sword down my throat, but that also makes me unique and I want to hold on to that.
“When I’m nervous, my heart beats on the blade and that’s a big reminder that it might feel easy but that you have to stay calm and do it properly.
“I like to say that I’m the most glamorous daredevil since Evel Knievel.”
Lucky Hell is performing in La Soiree at Fringe World 2019 with acts including Cabaret Decadanse, Fratelli Rossi and Carla Lippis.
What: La Soiree
Where: The Ice Cream Factory
When: Until March 3