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Backstage at the Monster Stunt show

Gulf News goes back stage to find out more about the production process

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News
James Nikolas Iconomou, one of the performer of "Monster Stunt show" at Global Village.
Gulf News

Dubai –If you want to see a blazing man fall off a building and a bike flip 180 degrees, then the Monster Stunt show is a must see at this year’s Global Village.

One of Global Village’s most anticipated shows is back, with new and bigger range of technologies, special effects, and breath taking stunts.

Taking place six days a week, the show features a crew of stunt professionals, technicians and safety officials, who have come together for the first time to perform throughout the 22nd edition of the six month event.

Performers prepare before the show "Monster Stunt show" (Photo:Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News)

Gulf News met the crew backstage to find out about more about the production process that makes the show a success.

The crew consists of 12 performers in total, with the majority being a male cast, and one female performer, James Nikolas, Stage Manager and stuntman told Gulf New.

“The show’s story line tells the tale of a professor who works for ‘Thorns Industries’- a made up world. He comes up with a new design for a supernatural toy that can transform things from big to small and small to big, while changing its power,” he said.

Performers prepare before the "Monster Stunt show" at Global Village. (Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News)

The show includes four cars customized for speed racing and drifting, two motorcycles, one mini motorbike, one mini monster truck and one large 1000 ton monster truck.

“The bikes drive around 20/30km per hour- but with a set so small, it’s very quick. The cars used for two-wheeling are not bought straight from the showroom. They have a split break system, so there is a foot peddle for front breaks, and separate back breaks- all prepared for drifting,” explained Nikolas.

The team performs two main stunts- the fire burn high fall, and the freestyle bike jump.

The first-one of the show’s most thrilling stunts- involves a man falling off a building while ablaze, after being shot at by another character.

“The stuntman wears a wet fire resistant costume, with a layer of Nomex underneath, and has a gasoline patch attached on his back. When an altercation takes place and the characters start shooting back and forth, the stunt man steps back to a flame that is set on the roof to light the patch, and then he gets “blown up” and falls of the building onto a thick mat with wet towels- that puts the fire off,” said Nikolas.

The fall, which is usually received with a loud gasp from the crowd, is around 22 meters high.

Training for just over a month, the majority of the crew who were previously working at stunt shows in China, are performing for the very first time in the Middle East.

“The first week everyone’s adrenaline is pumping, now it has become a goods routine, and we are loving it,” said Nikolas.

The Monster Stunt show takes place three times a day on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays, and four times a day on Thursdays and Fridays. Tuesday is a day off for the crew.

“Sometimes you are tired after a weekend or along night and the doing the show so often can take a toll on you. You get sore and your body hurts- but the minute we come in and see the crowds we get pumped up and get everyone going- it’s that energy,” explained Nikolas.

The group starts preparing for their first show of the day an hour in advance, where they test out the vehicles and ensure the props used are in place.

“We warm up before the show by doing breathing exercises and stretches individually. Everyone has their own mind set and need to get themselves focused,” said Nikolas.

He pointed out when it comes to safety on the set, they have a safety person backstage, and another at the tech booth, watching out for any errors, and ready to intervene in the case of an emergency.

When asked if he could share any secrets about the stunts, Nikolas, laughed, while explaining that often the characters playing the hero and the “bad guy” are swapped throughout the show to perform specific stunts.

“Another thing that might be interesting is the guns that we use on the show. The weapons are actually replicas of weapons they use in America for training purposes- these of course are plastic and rubber,” he added.

The Monster Stunt Show is among the 12,000 cultural and entertainment shows taking place in Global Village throughout the 158 days of Season 22.

Among the 12 person crew- Gulf News also talked to the oldest working stunt man on the set, American Red Horton, who is 60 years-old.

Horton was a movie stunt man for the first part of his career, and has taken part in movies such as Walker Texas Ranger, and worked with Chuck Norris on several projects. He as also helped direct over 200 productions TV and movies. Having worked in countries such as China and India before, Horton said he is enjoying his first time in the Middle East. “The people here are wonderful, and I came here in the winter so the weather is good, and everyday I meet someone from a different country- Dubai is like the melting pot of the world,” he said.

Horton who still gets a thrill performing every show, expressed his love for the business, pointing out he “would die before he retires.”

“For many people, they go to work in the morning, if they’re feeling sick, they call in sick- if I feel sick I come into work early, because once I get to the set the whole passion makes me feel better. It gets the endorphins and adrenaline going- and once I am on my way home, then I feel sick again, but while I’m working- I’m happy,” he said.

Meanwhile, IanVan Clever, the stunt man who performs the Fire burn high fall in the show, explained the process of wetting the fire-resistant suit, preparing the wet towels on the mat, and taking calculated risks.

“I think now that I have done it so many times, I am probably thinking about what I am having for dinner,” he said, as he chuckled.

“I am joking. I am very focused in the moment, because if I am not that’s when accidents can happen. I hold my breath for around eight to 10 seconds- because if you breathe in oxygen and fire is on your face, there’s a chance it can burn your lungs,” said Clever, who has been a stunt man for over 10 years.