Interview: Jamie Beddard, co-writer of Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror
Ahead of Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror arriving at the Bristol Old Vic in March, we caught up with one of the creatives behind the show, Jamie Beddard, to talk about the show, inspirations, sanctuaries, and great London pubs!
A daring tale of humanity, Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror – set in 1933 Germany where Nazis are burning books and suspending civil rights – is based on an original idea by Hattie Naylor, and co-written by Hattie Naylor and Jamie Beddard with an original score by Charles Hazlewood.
Hi Jamie, tell us about ‘Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror’ – what should audiences expect?
Waldo’s is a fictional account of a circus in 1933 Germany, set when the Nazis are burning books and suspending civil rights. Our production combines theatre, circus and music. The story is based on research on the circuses and the climate of the times, when many circus families, businesses and performers disappeared or went underground during the Nazi Party’s rapid ascent to power. These stories and circumstances echo the present and a call to stand up and prevent the recurrence of such horrors. Underneath all this Waldo’s Circus is entertaining, thought-provoking and unlike anything else previously seen.
Who or what inspired Hattie Naylor and you to write this show?
I’ve long been interested in this period of history, the growth and ultimate consequences of eugenics, and how attitudes towards, and the plight of disabled people at the time have been so dangerously impacted. Disabled people and performers have long been associated with circuses, from the freakshows of yesteryear to companies such as ours, Extraordinary Bodies. Waldo’s Circus is a particular take on some of the stories and perspectives that underpinned our research, inspired by the need to place those who have largely been ignored or marginalised centre-stage.
What are the biggest challenges when tackling such dark subject matter on stage?
There’s an incredible responsibility to do justice to the material Hattie and I uncovered, and the individuals and groups that suffered so much at the time and subsequently, albeit our characters and their stories are fictional. Making work such as this is vital in illuminating issues, albeit ensuring the right checks and balances are in place to ensure the material and themes are dealt with, with understanding and sensitivity. We worked with a Jewish advisory group that supported us through the key stages of Waldo’s Circus.
How vital can circus be as a potential sanctuary for those deemed as ’non-conforming’ in the present day?
The reason I love and am involved in circus is that it has always been a place for outsiders and non-conformists. The circus is a bubble, but in Waldo’s Circus the outside world is gradually and dangerously seeping in. Circuses have always had their own eco-systems, and offer experiences, opportunities and sanctuaries not found elsewhere.
What are your favourite London haunts? (To eat, to be entertained, to visit etc.)
My younger days were far more debauched, and I have many fond (occasionally fuzzy) memories of nights out in London. Unfortunately, so many haunts of my past have disappeared, been gentrified out of all recognition or, most annoyingly, are no longer accessible now I am a wheelchair user.
I’m a fan of old boozers, and they need all the love they can get. To name a few from my past; The Royal Mail on Upper St, The Boleyn Tavern on Barking Road, The Auld Shillelagh on Church Street, and The Compton Arms near Highbury Corner. I still love going out, and have my regular pubs – The Shakespeare and Rose and Crown in Stoke Newington.
After the Bristol Old Vic run, Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror continues on tour – click here for details!
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like: nice pubs, film marathons, not doing real marathons, bad comedy, plays/musicals with shorter second halves, and the Oxford comma.