Introducing Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror

We’re super excited to share our latest show and biggest venture yet, Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror – a spectacular new circus theatre musical about resistance and love set in a travelling circus.

This is a special show for us for so many reasons; it marks the BIG ten year anniversary of Extraordinary Bodies – a collaboration between Diverse City and Cirque Bijou, plus we’re partnering with some great friends in the South West including our co-producers for Waldo’s Circus – Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth.

The show represents a major shift in programming, creative employment opportunities, community engagement and audience access and we’re looking forward to bringing it to a theatre near you.

Extraordinary Bodies acknowledge 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. 

Waldo’s Circus unfolds in 1933 Brandenburg, Germany where 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’. 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. 

A daring tale of humanity, informed by historical research and the experiences of real performers, 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 Hattie Naylor and Jamie Beddard (Messiah, The Elephant Man) with an original score by composer Charles Hazlewood (Paraorchestra). And it’s co-directed by Claire Hodgson (Diverse City) and Billy Alwen (Cirque Bijou).

Jamie Beddard, Writer said:

“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.”

Hattie Naylor, Writer said:

“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.”

Charles Hazlewood, Composer said:

“When I write a score for a piece of theatre, 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 Purvis and Dominic Owen

Abbie Purvis is an actor and musical theatre performer. She plays ‘Krista’, the star of the 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 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. 

Claire Hodgson and Billy Alwen, Co-Directors, Extraordinary Bodies 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 humans. You will be entranced by the performers and their characters and unable to forget the beautiful writing and the songs.”

Join us

We’d love for you to join us on tour! Our partner venues are offering a range of ticketing options, including pay what you can, pay it forward plus 100 FREE tickets to preview performances for newcomers at the Bristol Old Vic! Click on the links below to find out about each venue.

All performances are chilled*, BSL interpreted, captioned and audio described.

* Find out what a chilled performance is here.

Connecting Communities

As with every one of our shows, there will also be an opportunity to connect much more deeply with the work we’re creating through our project Connecting Communities. We’ll be sharing more about this very soon.

Our Supporters

We thank our funders for their support: Arts Council England, National Lottery and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. And a special thank you to our advisory group for the script; Michael Achtman, Elana Binysh, Stav Meisher, Nina Steiger and Sarah Sigal.

Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror is on tour around the UK during 2023. Stay tuned for more details including our full cast announcement, exciting behind the scenes action plus much more on socials and website.