The Paradise Circus by James Purdy

Monday 10 September 2018

Off-West End - Shows

The Playground Theatre's Autumn season kicks-off with the world premiere of James Purdy's The Paradise Circus, directed by the venue's co-artistic director, Anthony Biggs.
The Paradise Circus at The Playground Theatre

Image: The Playground Theatre

First up in The Playground Theatre's Autumn season is The Paradise Circus written by James Purdy in a production directed by Anthony Biggs.

The play is scheduled to run from 8 October to 3 November 2018.

Star of stage, screen and television, Sophie Ward will lead the cast in this world premiere of the work of Twentieth Century American cult writer James Purdy.

She will be joined on stage by her son Josh Ward (Enemy of the State, The Chain Reaction) as well as Tim Woodward (Poirot, K-19:The Widowmaker, Beast), Sam Coulson (Babylon, The Huntsman, Mr Holmes), Mark Aiken (24, Trinity, Inspector Lewis), Peter Tate (National Theatre, American Shakespeare Company, Actors Studio New York) and Debra Penny (A Royal Night Out, Peaky Blinders, Eastenders).

The Paradise Circus tells the story of two brothers, starved of affection, who share a secret unshakeable bond.

Chastised and neglected by their grief-stricken father, they spend their days painting carousel horses for the carnival.

When a beguiling circus master pays them an unexpected visit, he makes a tempting offer which will have terrible consequences for them all, forcing the father to turn for help to the one person he fears most: the Witch of Hebblethwaite.

But will her price be too high for him to bear?

Gritty realism collides with superstition and myth in this David Lynch-style tale of the unexpected from a neglected master of magical realism.

Sophie Ward is perhaps best known for the film Young Sherlock Holmes directed by Barry Levison.

Her other film work includes Out of Bounds, Book of Blood, Return To Oz, Little Dorrit and The Haunting of Julia.

Her stage work includes seasons at Glasgow Citizens Theatre in which she notably starred as Ophelia in Hamlet, Amanda in Private Lives and Queen Elizabeth in Don Carlos.

Television includes the role of Sophie Byrne in Holby City and the acclaimed mini-series A Dark Adapted Eye with Helena Bonham Carter.

Novelist, playwright, poet and short-story writer, James Purdy (1914 to 2009) is the lesser-known titan of American twentieth century literature.

Celebrated by the likes of Tennessee Williams and Edith Sitwell and described by Gore Vidal as 'an authentic American genius', Purdy's influence stretches far beyond his fame.

His works include 63 Dream Palace, Malcolm (dramatised by Edward Albee) and In a Shallow Grave.

Anthony Biggs, co-artistic director of The Playground Theatre says ...

"I'm thrilled to be introducing audiences to the magical world of The Paradise Circus.

It's no surprise to me that Purdy has had so many high profile admirers, from Tennessee Williams to Susan Sontag, and more recently Jonathan Franzen.

His eccentric blend of 'Wes Anderson' style of story-telling, compelling characters, and beguiling narrative is both entertaining and unsettling.

And Purdy's message in The Paradise Circus - that we should be careful what we wish for - feels uncomfortably timely."

The Playground Theatre's Autumn season also includes Matt Board's and Reina Hardy's Fanatical, directed by Shaun Kerryson (November 7 to December 9) and Mary Rodgers' and Marshall Barer's Once Upon a Mattress directed by Alex Pearson and Grace Wessels (December 18 to January 19).


"A bewitching tale from 'a singular American Visionary" - New York Times.

In the deep Mid-West old miser Rawlings pines for his perfect boy killed in The Great War.

His two younger sons, neglected by their father, waste their lives away painting beautiful horses for the merry-go-round.

When the enigmatic ringmaster of a travelling circus pays an unexpected visit, he makes the old man a terrible but tempting offer.

Wracked with guilt over his decision, in desperation Rawlings is forced to turn to Alda Pennington for help.

But salvation doesn't come cheaply at the home of the witch doctor.


Sophie Ward

Josh Ward

Sam Coulson

Mark Aiken

Peter Tate

Debra Penny


Author: James Purdy
Director: Anthony Biggs


The Playground Theatre
Unit 8
343-453 Latimer Rd
W10 6RQ


From: Monday 8 October 2018

Closed: Saturday 3 November 2018




£15 Concession

Standard: £22

Concessions: £18


Show website
ActDrop full listing for The Paradise Circus
James Purdy - Wikipedia

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