Elle of a freak show nails it

Fire breathing sideshow performer Elle Diablo with other performers Maiko Momo, left Tiki Amazon, Ember, Fever Pitch and Taffy. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

The woman who lives a double life may be an old crime-novel cliche but for Amanda Miller, aka Elle Diablo, it's a perfectly apt description.

By day she's a biomedical science graduate working towards a career in nursing.

By night she is a pole-dancing, sword-walking, fire-swallowing sideshow performer who got her first tattoo at 14 and hasn't really stopped since. She is now 25.

She is appearing at Fringe World in Chest of Wonders, an all-female revue that draws on the old sideshow and freak show performances of the 1930s but gives them a modern twist.

"I've always been interested in the human body and what it's capable of doing," the multi-tasking performer says.

"What I love about sideshow is that it ties in science and physics, but in a fun way. All the acts I do revolve around the fact that I understand the science of the body. I'm not superhuman - a lot of it is just physics."

Miller dropped out of school to become a body piercer but a stint in East Timor as a volunteer for an aid organisation convinced her to become a doctor.

She took a university entrance test and studied biomedical science before realising that nursing would allow her the room to pursue her other, more unusual, career.

Other members of the troupe include a postdoctoral fellow at Melbourne University, a student of plant pathology, a psychologist and a neuro-scientist.

One of Miller's staple acts is the human blockhead, which refers to hammering - or, in her case, drilling - a nail into her head. "Having several years of anatomy study under your belt definitely helps with that one," she jokes.

The Chest of Wonders: La Maison Derriere! is appearing at The Pleasure Garden in Northbridge until tomorrow.