The Circus of Wonders and Shadows

Deception, magic, sacrifice

Designers: Nickey Barnard, Clare Gardner, Adam Hayes, Abi Kirby, Charlie Paull and Rich Perry
Number of participants: 12
Duration: 3 hours
The presenter feels that this larp IS NOT suitable for young people aged 16+

About the larp

It is 1930, post-show in the tents of the Circus of Wonders and Shadows. The public have all gone home, only those that make their living from the sawdust and the spangles remain. The Circus is set up outside yet another dirtball town somewhere in midwest America, but the Great Depression is beginning to tighten and the audiences are not what they once were.

The circus folk are uneasy in the face of an uncertain future. The fairy tales told by those from the Old Country, tales of blood and sacrifice, are beginning to take root in people’s minds. The wind that whips between the guy ropes is beginning to taste of dust and ashes.

What can a few outcasts and outsiders desperate to keep the magic alive do in the face of an uncaring world? The Circus of Wonders and Shadows is a game of dark fantasy and deception in a world that sits on that uneasy edge between magic and reality.

NB: We might ask players to wear make-up we provide – I would want to check for allergies etc.

Content Warnings: This game has dark themes in the backgrounds of characters including murder, stalking, the eating of human flesh, mutilation and the corruption of the soul.

Warning: Clowns!

Most of this is only in the background, but players may be expected to sacrifice something that might be important to them – e.g. a beautiful dancer may have to give up that beauty etc. Imaginary bodies may have to be moved during the game.

Nickey Barnard: I am primarily a writer of larps in the UK Freeform or theatre-style larp tradition. I enjoy complicated plots and detailed character sheets and have been writing games of that ilk for about twenty years. I have played games in many other traditions however and love to try new things – in the last few years I have even gone abroad to play some large international larps. I thoroughly recommend it!


Physical contact Not relevant for this larp; e.g. just standing in a room and talking
Romance and intimacy Romantic themes but no player contact; e.g. discussion of romance, illicit glances
Conflict and violence Shouting and other intimidating actions not involving contact
Communication style Lots of speech
Movement style Walking
Characters Characters are fully predesigned
Narrative control Intensely plotted and designed, but players have freedom as to how to achieve their goals
Transparency There are predesigned secrets that players will have from each other
Representation level The fictional space looks very unlike the play space, but players will use their imaginations
Play culture Players are individually trying to achieve goals, such that not all can succeed
Tone Dramatic

Saturday morning, Studio 1