Review: Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror


Capturing a level of inclusivity that feels rare for the stage, Waldo's Circus of Magic & Terror, is a show unlike any other.

  • Mesmerising

Under a star-lit big top, Waldo’s Circus gave us love, hope, hurt, and above all the acceptance of difference.

Waldo’s Circus of Magic and Terror tells the story of circus performers during World War Two as they navigate growing fears for their futures. However, what is unique about this show is the inclusion that it demonstrated for both cast and audience members.

Via. MAST Mayflower Studios

Extraordinary Bodies, a collaboration between show-makers Cirque Bijou and charity Diverse City, allowed this story to showcase the harrowing tales of people who were born a little different by people that would have suffered such persecution should they have been there. In doing so, the stage was opened up to actors of different backgrounds and abilities, as well as the story being made available to different audience members. On either side of the stage was a screen with subtitles, as well as a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter present throughout. Shows such as this allow access for all, demonstrating a universal design that should be present in every aspect of life. Through the use of subtitles, I was able to check lines that I hadn’t quite heard because of the music, as is often the case in live shows. Extraordinary Bodies did an incredible job at showing us all the future of theatre.

The first half of this show saw a celebration of ability, skill, and individuality, with the ever-growing tension of World War Two looming in the background. We saw the beginnings of love blossoming but also friendships straining under pressure. Yet the second half highlighted the terrible realities of so many during that time, with all of the cast leaving their hearts out on the stage.

The most poignant songs of the show were those lacking any sound. Mish and Mosh, the Deaf dynamic duo played by Raphaella Julien and Brooklyn Melvin, each led us through a song in BSL. The first explored the importance of following your heart, while the second detailed the harrowing disappearance of so many throughout World War Two. While there were no lyrics to tell the story, these songs hit so hard because it was a feeling that was evoked, rather than being told how it should make you feel. Being given a glimpse into the Deaf world enabled the audience to truly understand what was going on.

Of course, no circus would be complete without aerial acts and Waldo’s Circus showcased the skill of those involved through beautiful performances. Of particular mention, ring-boy turned Third Reich Captain Peter, played by Tilly Lee-Kronick, portrayed the inner battle they faced through song and aerial art. Additionally, the circus’ newest runaway Gerhard, played by Lawrence Swaddle, highlighted his career as an acrobatic performer and helped bring the circus to life.

This story juxtaposes a celebration of abilities with the darkness of history, offering inclusion to all those on and off stage. Waldo’s Circus of Magic and Terror will be playing at MAST until 6th May 2023 and promises a unique insight into experiences of World War Two. Information and tickets can be found here.


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An Education and Psychology student dabbling in writing as a means of avoiding everything else. Usually found eating pizza or chocolate.

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