Casting Announced for ‘Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror’ as Rehearsals Begin - StageLync
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Casting Announced for ‘Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror’ as Rehearsals Begin

The full cast was announced today for Waldo’s Circus of Magic and Terror, the brand-new musical from Extraordinary Bodies, who are co-producing with Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth to create their most ambitious production to date.

Set in 1933 Brandenburg, the Nazis are burning books and suspending civil rights. Many are desperate to escape, but for Waldo and his travelling circus of outcasts, acrobats, and aerialists, ‘the show must go on.’ The cast includes a bold and diverse company of actors, musicians, and aerialists to bring this daring tale of humanity, courage, and defiance to the stage in Extraordinary Bodies’ inimitable style.

The role of ‘Waldo the Ringmaster’ is played by award-winning Disabled writer, actor and director Garry Robson whose previous acting work includes Graeae’s Two, Reasons to be Cheerful, The Threepenny Opera and Pericles (all National Theatre), Our Town (Regents Park), and the role of Arvide Abernethy in Sheffield Crucible’s Guys and Dolls. He has just completed the National Theatre tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical playing Donnie Kirshner. He is also a familiar face on television for lead roles in CBBC’s gameshow Crisis Control, BBC Wales Pitching In and BBC’s Silent Witness.

Abbie Purvis joins Extraordinary Bodies for the first time in the role of ‘Krista’, the star of the circus. An actor and musical theatre performer, her credits include Willow (filmed, 2022), Peter Pan (Eastwood Park Theatre),and Snow White(Motherwell Theatre). Abbie has acting in her DNA as the granddaughter of Jack Purvis (Time Bandits, Monty Python, and Star Wars) and daughter of Katie Purvis, who played the iconic role of Maternal Ewok in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. She is joined by Dominic Owen, an actor and musical theatre performer playing ‘Gerhard’ a Nazi Party member drawn towards the magic of Waldo’s Circus. His acting credits include: Man Of La Mancha(ENO/West End), Barnum (Menier Chocolate Factory), Wonderland(UK Tour), Hello Dolly (ADC Theatre, Cambridge), Grand Hotel, and Anything Goes, and recently completed filming for Disney’s Snow White.

Mirabelle Gremaud plays both Dr Margot Hoche and Queenie. An actress, musician, dancer and acrobat, Mirabelle’s recent credits include Emma Rice’s acclaimed productions of Wise Children, Malory Towers and Wuthering Heights and Liam Steel’s Peter Pan (Birmingham Rep) as Tinkerbell.

Raphaella Julien and Brooklyn Melvin play the clowns Mish and Mosh, respectively. Raphaella is fluent in BSL and SSE and is a skilled mime and physical theatre performer. She won the Best Actress Award for her role in Lost, Taken, Murdered at #Deaffest 2022. Her theatre credits include: Follow the Signs, Stig of the Dump, Emperor’s New Clothesand The Survivors Guide to Living. Brooklyn is a Deaf, BSL and English language user whose credits include Oliver Twist(Leeds Playhouse/ Ramps on the Moon), Last Women Left, and Love and Information (RCS). Their short films include Y, XYZ (RCS). 

Jack Reitman plays Joseph Benowitz,the owner of a rival circus. Jack received the 2020 Off-WestEnd Award for Best Actor in a Musical for Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story (Hope Theatre). Other credits include Amour (Charing Cross Theatre), Assassins (Pleasance Theatre), Brass (Union Theatre), and Love’s Labour’s Lost (Hackney Empire).

JoAnne Hainesplays Dora. She is a Learning-Disabled artist and performer whose recent work includes A Little Space(national tour and film – Gecko), ZARA (Walk the Plank), and three national tours and a run at Edinburgh Fringe 2017 of Mia. Her personal projects include the Colour Fullco-creation workshops for people with LD/complex needs, adapted as a digital version for Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival.

Tilly Lee-Kronick plays the Ring Boy Peter Günter. Tilly performed her solo show Ripe across the UK with Crying Out Loud in 2021, and was a resident circus artist at the Roundhouse 2018-2019 and an Associate Artist at Deda 2019-2020. Tilly has also performed nationally and internationally for companies including Extraordinary Bodies, Cirque Bijou, Rosemary Lee Dance, Full Tilt Aerial Dance, and played the principal role in Metta Theatre’s Little Mermaid. 

Jonny Leitch plays circus performer Renèe. He regularly performs with Extraordinary Bodies including in What Am I Worth and Human, as a drummer, aerialist, and sound designer. Jonny has played at Glastonbury Festival with Paraorchestra as a percussionist for the Love Unlimited Synth Orchestra and has worked on several projects with Graeae theatre company as a drummer and composer.

Ryan Murphyplays the roles of Darragh Finnegan and Wilhelm. Ryan is a Circus Theatre-maker whose hearing loss inspired him to explore visual arts and physical theatre and gave him a passion for telling silent stories without barriers. Ryan trained at Circomedia, the National Centre of Circus Arts, and Ecole Philippe Gaulier. He works widely in the outdoor arts, touring across the UK & France with shows such as The Lift, The Ball, The Aperitif, and GAME.

The company is completed by musicians Dave Johnzy (also Associate Music Director for Waldo’s Circus), whose theatre work includes Twelfth Night and The Little Match Girl (both at Shakespeare’s Globe) and Dead Dog and a Suitcase(Kneehigh), and who has performed and recorded with the likes of Basement Jaxx, Babyhead, Dub Mafia, Charli 2na and The Jungle Brothers; and Harriet Riley, a British Percussionist and Composer in the chamber quartet Spindle Ensemble, who plays with the alt-pop project Stevie Toddler and Charles Hazlewood’s Paraorchestra, performing with them in Moscow, Australia, London’s Southbank and headlining at Bluedot Festival in the UK. She also plays with Will Gregory in the Moog Ensemble performing at The British Library and with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

A daring tale of humanity, Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror is based on an original idea by Hattie Naylor (Ivan and the Dogs, The Night Watch) and co-written by Naylor and Jamie Beddard (Messiah, The Elephant Man), with an original score by Charles Hazlewood (Paraorchestra). It is co-directed by Claire Hodgson (Diverse City) and Billy Alwen (Cirque Bijou) and they are joined by set and costume designer Ti Green, lighting designer Katy Morison, sound designer Andy Rose, and choreographer Vicki Igbokwe (Uchenna Dance), with associate director Jenny Davies and associate music director Dave Johnzy.

Extraordinary Bodies is a collaboration between Cirque Bijou and Diverse City, who have worked together for the last decade creating multi-disciplinary circus shows with D/deaf, disabled and non-disabled artists.

Waldo’s Circus premieres at Bristol Old Vic on Saturday 11 March. It is co-produced with Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth. All shows are Chilled Performances, BSL interpreted, captioned and audio described.

As Hitler’s dictatorship strengthens and oppression grows, this circus troupe’s daring humanity and courage stay hidden beneath their big top. Their way of life balances on a tightwire as the world outside becomes darker and more dangerous.  The story looks behind the painted-on glamour, skillful risk-taking and fierce loyalty, with Waldo the Ringmaster controlling the entertainment on and off the circus stage. Krista is the star of the show and gets close to Gerhard, an audience member who displays natural circus talents. Joseph is the owner of a rival circus and a man who is running out of time. Circus clowns Mish and Mosh share the language of BSL on stage, and Darragh performs with his ladders and hats, hoping that will be enough. Peter the Ring Boy is reviled and bullied by Waldo for reasons that no one understands, while Dora the cleaner longs for her moment in the spotlight. Aerialist Renée seeks moments of connection in the bars of every city the circus visits, and Queenie is the fortune teller haunted by visions of a doomed future.

Extraordinary Bodies acknowledges the Holocaust and the millions of Jewish victims, and other groups* including Disabled people who were targeted for persecution and murder. In making this work, the company affirms its unwavering commitment to counter antisemitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance that may lead to group-targeted violence. 

In addition to singling out Jews for complete annihilation, the Nazis targeted for discrimination and persecution, anyone they believed threatened their ideal of a ‘pure Aryan race’.

* Other Groups targeted by the Nazis include Roma, Disabled people, some Slavic peoples (especially Poles and Russians) and Black people. Other groups targeted also included Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gay people, Freemasons, people the Nazis called ‘asocials’ and ‘professional criminals’ and political opponents – primarily communists, trade unionists and social democrats.

Extraordinary Bodies is working with a Jewish advisory group that includes specialists, formed to support script development and external communications.

Extraordinary Bodies Language Guide for referring to disability LINK

Website: https://www.extraordinarybodies.org.uk/

Short Credit:Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror is presented by Extraordinary Bodies. It was conceived and written by Hattie Naylor and co-written with Jamie Beddard, the composer is Charles Hazlewood and it is co-directed by Claire Hodgson and Billy Alwen. The show is co-produced with Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth. It is supported by Arts Council England and Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Tour dates

11 March – 1 April  Bristol Old Vic

20 – 22 April  The Lowry Salford Quays  

26 – 29 April  Theatre Royal Plymouth

4 – 6 May  MAST Mayflower Studios Southampton

20 May  Lighthouse Poole

7 June  Brighton Dome

Duration: approx 120 minutes

Age recommendation: 12+

Access: BSL is embedded into the show which has live BSL interpretation and captioning on-screen to the side of the stage. Audio Description is pre-recorded and played through headsets. Access tours (15 minutes) are available before the show. All performances are chilled.

Editor's Note: At StageLync, an international platform for the performing arts, we celebrate the diversity of our writers' backgrounds. We recognize and support their choice to use either American or British English in their articles, respecting their individual preferences and origins. This policy allows us to embrace a wide range of linguistic expressions, enriching our content and reflecting the global nature of our community.

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