Extraordinary Bodies With Co-producers Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth Presents a New Circus Theatre Musical ‘Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror’ - StageLync
Our Term of Use, Cookie and Privacy Policy have been updated on June 3rd, 2024.OK

Circus News

Extraordinary Bodies With Co-producers Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth Presents a New Circus Theatre Musical ‘Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror’

A daring tale of humanity, Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror,the latest show from inclusive UK company Extraordinary Bodies, is a new circus theatre musical and spectacular story of love and resistance set in a travelling circus. The show is based on an original idea by Hattie Naylor, co-written by Naylor and Jamie Beddard, with an original score by Charles Hazlewood.

Set in 1933 Germany, where fascist whispers have grown to shouts, Waldo and his eclectic troupe of acrobats and clowns dedicate themselves to their craft. Concealed within the glamour of Waldo’s big top, stories of love, courage, and resistance are revealed as the world outside this remarkable circus troupe becomes darker and more dangerous. The story is informed by historical research and the experiences of real performers. The star of Waldo’s Circus is ‘Krista,’ played by Abbie Purvis with Dominic Owen as ‘Gerhard.’ Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror is a large-scale collaboration between D/deaf, disabled, and non-disabled artists and creators and tours nationally in 2023.

Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror is presented by Extraordinary Bodies 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”). The show’s composer is Charles Hazlewood (Artistic Director, Paraorchestra), and it is co-directed by Claire Hodgson (Diverse City) and Billy Alwen (Cirque Bijou). Waldo’s Circus is co-produced with Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth. All shows are Chilled Performances, BSL-interpreted, captioned and audio described. It premieres at Bristol Old Vic with a National press night on 16 March 2023.

Extraordinary Bodies acknowledges the Holocaust and the millions of Jewish victims, as well as 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.

The world of Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror takes the painted-on glamour, skillful risk-taking, fierce loyalty, and the idea that “the show must go on” as its narrative pillars. Set in 1933 when the lawfor “Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases” is passed, Waldo the Ringmaster, with his travelling circus of outcasts and misfits, acrobats and aerialists, lovers and fighters, are surviving in the fervour of Hitler’s dictatorship.

Says show writer Jamie Beddard, “As a disabled person and artist, I’m acutely aware of the stigmatisation of particular groups and people through the growth of fascism in the past and now. The popularity of Eugenics in early 1930s Germany marked the beginning of a dark chapter in history where millions of people who were deemed not to conform were brutally hunted down and ‘dealt with.’ Whilst researching this period, the role of the circus in helping some of these people escape and find sanctuary provided the basis for Waldo’s Circus. Our dramatic exploration of this moving and brave story reminds us to be always vigilant, and with the energy, skills and creativity of our artists, we hope to create a spectacular, meaningful and vital piece.”

Fellow show writer Hattie Naylor adds, “The inspiration and story of Waldo’s Circus evolved from initial interest and conversations generated by Todd Browning’s iconic film Freaks, released in 1932. It occurred to me that there must have been circuses in Germany that had so-called ‘freak shows’ at that time. So, I started researching, and I found that not only was this the case but these performers were smuggled out of the country through the circus networks, to Paris and beyond. Jamie, Extraordinary Bodies, and I worked on the characters together, taking inspiration from a variety of circus artists from both the past and present. Extraordinary Bodies is not only doing radical work but is utterly inclusive and aims, as a principle, to make everyone welcome and heard. It is a privilege to work with a company with this profound ethos at its heart.”

The score is composed by Charles Hazlewood and developed alongside the show rehearsals and research and development sessions with the cast and creatives. The music promises a bold mix of styles with live, multi-instrumentalists onstage.

“When I write a score for a piece of theatre,” says Hazlewood, “I write for the performers in the rehearsal room and borrow from each and any and all musical worlds. For Waldo’s Circus, where Hattie and Jamie have written very beautiful, lyrical prose, I thought, how about if we created a kind of punk circus that also borrowed from new romanticism, techno, and renaissance? There’s no incongruity about having a punk aria followed by a piece of renaissance counterpoint—and that’s what the show will be. Extraordinary Bodies is a phenomenally skilled, and ultimately, very, very open-hearted, adventurous bunch of individuals.”

Announcing lead performers Abbie Purvisand Dominic Owen

Abbie Purvis is an actor and musical theatre performer. She plays ‘Krista’, the star of Waldo’s circus and the main attraction. She has a brave heart and is funny, sassy and loyal. The circus is Krista’s family and the only place where she has felt safe. Purvis comes from a lineage of actors: she is the granddaughter of Jack Purvis (Time Bandits, Monty Python and Star Wars), and her mother, Katie Purvis, played the iconic role of the Maternal Ewok in Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi.

Dominic Owen is an actor and musical theatre performer. He plays ‘Gerhard’, handsome but gullible, and a Nazi Party member. Owen’s acting credits include “Man Of La Mancha,” “Barnum,” “Wonderland,” “Fame,” “Babes in Arms,” “Hello Dolly,” “Grand Hotel,” and “Anything Goes.”

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.

Co-Directors Claire Hodgson and Billy Alwen said,“In Extraordinary Bodies’ shows, we try to reflect the world as it truly is on stage. It is important that our work connects the inside and the outside of theatres to the audiences that see it, and we embed the work as much as possible in the community before and after the shows. Waldo’s Circus is a cross-genre feast and the music is surprising, jumping across genres and decades. The circus will be varied and exciting. It is quite punk, feisty, astonishing, and about the best of us and the worst of us as human beings. You will be entranced by the performers and their characters and unable to forget the beautiful writing and songs.”

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 projected above the stage. Audio Description is pre-recorded and played through headsets. Access tours (15 minutes) are available before the show. All performances are chilled.

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

* 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. They also targeted 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 are working with a Jewish advisory group of specialists, formed to support script development and external communications.

Main Image: @Photo by Paul Blakemore and design by Studio Stiles
Image description:  The main image is two performers sat on a raised tight wire in a dark circus tent. The circus tent is decorated with gold stars and bunting. To the right is the main character, Krista who is a young white woman of short stature with short brown hair looking away into the distance. To the left is Gerhard, a young white man with short brown hair, who gazes intently at the other performer, Krista, as he reaches his hand to touch her. Both characters’ costumes are in the style of the 1930s. Hers is a shiny silver beaded corset with white silk shorts, tights and black shoes. He looks elegant in brown trousers and a brown waistcoat over a long-sleeved white shirt and black shoes. Underneath the two performers burns a small fierce fire with red flames, reaching the soles of their feet and signifying the danger beneath this love story.

Extraordinary Bodies Language Guide for referring to disability LINK

This is an Arts Council England-supported national touring project. Extraordinary Bodies is touring three stage shows: Human, Delicate and Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror to national tour partners:  Brighton Dome, The Civic Barnsley, Lighthouse Poole, The Lowry Salford Quays, MAST Mayflower Studios Southampton, Theatre Royal Plymouth and The Fire Station Sunderland.

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.

🎧 Join us on the StageLync Podcast for inspiring stories from the world of performing arts! Tune in to hear from the creative minds who bring magic to life, both onstage and behind the scenes. 🎙️ 👉 Listen now!