By Laura Dale and Becca Husselbee
A contortionist who can fit her entire body into a jar no bigger than two foot high and 18 inches in diameter has been mesmerising audiences up and down the UK.
Steph Mercury, 22, from Dorset, has been the ‘pickled lady’, as part of the Circus of Horrors show, for the last five years but is now giving up the job – after getting fed up with the constant aches, pains and bruises.
Steph, who is 5ft 4in tall, joined the circus at 17 years old and said: “I have always been flexible since I was a child and did gymnastic and dancing but never realised how flexible I was until friends told me.
“I went to see the Circus of Horrors and got chatting to them and ending up becoming part of it.
“When they suggested the act to me I thought, ‘I can do that no problem’ but when I saw how small the jar was I wasn’t so sure.”
The transparent plastic jar is part of the act where the performer must cram themselves in before being cover in a blanket that is removed on stage in a shocking reveal.
Steph often loves to practice her skills by playing pranks on all her friends and family as her talent allows her to hide in small spaces
Steph said: “They get fed up of me hiding in cupboards and laundry baskets now but if they lose me they know where I am.
“I used to frighten my friend by hiding in his kitchen cupboards and even managed to fit myself inside a gym bag after a cage fighter who came along to the show didn’t think I could do it.
“It’s great fun when I go to Ikea because I can hide in all the furniture.”
However being squeezed into a jar does come with consequences.
Steph said: “I constantly have bruises on my sides and legs from wiggling into the jar, it can also give you back pain if you haven’t warmed up properly.
“I had to perform at a bar opening and spent 20 minutes at a time in the jar, which means there is lots of condensation, and I was soaked when I came out and is not very glamorous.
“I do an aerial act too, and I want to focus more on that now – I feel as though I need to be stretched rather than squashed up for a change!”
The ‘pickled lady’ act has featured in the circus show since it began 22 years ago but the founder of the alternative circus show is looking for a new lady to not fill big shoes but fill a little jar.