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Sophie Ward to star in The Paradise Circus at The Playground Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

STAGE, screen and television star, Sophie Ward will lead the cast in the world premiere of American cult writer James Purdy’s The Paradise Circus, which runs at The Playground Theatre from October 8 to November 3, 2018.

Directed by Anthony Biggs, 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 credits include seasons at Glasgow Citizens Theatre in which she notably starred as Ophelia in Hamlet, Amanda in Private Lives and Queen Elizabeth in Don Carlos.

Ward’s television work includes the role of Sophie Byrne in Holby City and the acclaimed mini-series A Dark Adapted Eye with Helena Bonham Carter.

Ward 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).

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 said: “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 Paradise Circus is the first production in The Playground Theatre’s Autumn season which 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).