By: Wendy Sheard, TRP Reviewer
Roll up, roll up to Waldo’s Circus of Magic and Terror, a mash-up of light and dark, joy and despair.
Brought to us by Extraordinary Bodies, a collaboration between Diverse City and Cirque Bijou, it tells the story of circus performers in 1933, the beginning of bleakest of times in our history when Nazi Germany was on the rise and people were persecuted for simply being themselves.
The co-writers, Hattie Naylor and Jamie Beddard skillfully bring together themes which are shocking and alarming, demonstrating how people can act in cruel and inhumane ways to silence and dehumanise others. They also showcase the magnificence of the human body in all its forms and celebrate resilience and fortitude.
We meet circus performers, who have been cast out and had their voices quashed as they are perceived as different, strange or lacking in some way by main stream society. They are led by Ringmaster Waldo, played by Garry Robson, who, behind his loquacious manner and painted-on smile, is mean-spirited, unkind and rules through fear and intimidation yet constantly faces his own demons.
Despite the bleakness of the storyline, a theme of love and compassion runs throughout the piece; Abbie Purvis as Krista portrays a mighty, strong-minded woman who meets the naïve and star struck Gerhard, played here brilliantly by Lawrence Swaddle, they share beautiful, heart rendering moments of tenderness as their love develops.
Waldo’s Circus of Magic and Terror is also a feast of death-defying feats of acrobatics and gymnastics. A breathtakingly spectacular and beautiful piece of trapeze art featuring Jonny Leitch as Renee, a stand out brilliant acrobat and the multi-talented Tilly Lee-Kronick who portrays Peter, the much-maligned ring-boy and Waldos son, is simply sublime.
We are taken behind the scenes, beyond the colour and façade of the circus tent and explore connections and communication; for example, Mish, (Raphaella Julien) and Mosh (Brooklyn Melvin) the circus clowns, show us that relationships are formed using much more than spoken words and voices, rather it is via care, empathy, love and understanding for each other that are everlasting.
What makes this show so compelling is that we know the outcome before the curtain rises, we know that persecution and terror is just around the corner for each and every one of the people we meet. The sense of impending doom is exacerbated by the scaffolding tower staging which casts dark shadows and hints at the frightening doorway to death and destruction which is on the horizon and yet it remains a story of hope, success and triumph.
Take a visit to Waldo’s Circus of Magic and Terror, be awed by the sheer skill of all the performers and be challenged by the true story they are telling.
All performances are chilled, captioned and audio described, they also benefit from the amazing skills and talents of Max Marchewicz, a British Sign Language Interpreter who plays a central role throughout the production. In essence they sign the whole show; yes, the whole show, now that is magic!