Drama in January 1950 at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire when Madame Kocka was strangled by her 14ft Python

In January 1950 the thrill of the tropics arrived at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and what a show it must have been! Pete Collins’ exotic “Jungle Fantasy” opened there on Monday 16th January.


The complete programme of events were listed as follows:

1. Prologue spoken by Planter Norman Prince

2. The Indian Jungle:
(a) From the bazaar of Cawnpore Yogi Zahoor on the swaying bamboo pole.
(b) Tarzan with Pongo the human gorilla.
(c) The artificial elephant “Tessie” the pride of the Irrawaddy – the world’s only dancing elephant.

3.Karah Khavak’s temple of jungle reptiles.
(a) Madame Kocka manipulating pythons, boa-constrictors and reticulatus snakes.
(b) ‘Dance Macabre’ by the Sabus
(c) Karah Khavak with his Saurians, showing the rites of the cult of the Sacred Green Crocodile in which these reptiles are genuinely hypnotised.
(d) The human sacrifice by Marco

Intermission – Jack Robson and his orchestra

4. From the jungles of Brazil – The “Chu-Chu” samba danced by the Sabus (accompanied by the Gold Coast Tom-Tom Orchestra)

5. The African Bush – John Bales’ breathtaking display of eight jungle lionesses.

6. Miss Sabu in her exotic “Danse de Ventre”.

7. Tay & Tys in “This & That”

8. Harry Abdin – from the East (end)

9. Pete Collins’ replica of the African native village of Kintampo, depicting one day of its life featuring: Prince Kari Kari.
(a) Morning.
(b) The Dance of the Maidens
(c) Witch doctor Ju-Ju practices.
(d) The War Dance


However during Madame Kocka’s act, her 14ft python began to choke her on stage. The Daily Mail reported on 19th January what had happened to her the previous night:

‘A 14ft python began to choke Irena Kocka during her act on the stage of Shepherd’s Bush Empire last night. She fell, screaming and struggling. The curtain was dropped. Her husband Ludwig tugged at the coils around her throat; stage manager Leslie Hamilton pulled at the snake’s tail.

Finally Irena was released, unconscious. Later she continued with her act. Few in the audience realised anything was wrong. The Kocka’s are Czechs; have appeared in shows with the 15-year-old python and seven others for two years without any trouble’.

Steve Russell