Doctor Who: CHILDREN OF THE CIRCUS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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"Children of the Circus," an audio musical drama from AUK Studios, marks a triumphant reunion for the cast of the Seventh Doctor story, "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy." This limited edition CD set, released on December 14th, 2023 and available to purchase here, commemorates 35 years since the original episode aired on BBC One. Written by Kenton Hall with songs by Christopher Guard and based on an idea by Barnaby Eaton-Jones, the story resurrects the magic of Stephen Wyatt's "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy," while venturing into new, imaginative territories.

The story revolves around the Psychic Circus, once a refuge for universal misfits, which later succumbed to the control of malevolent Gods. Years after these Gods have departed, the scars of the survivors linger. However, the Children of the Circus, equipped with the power of song, are ready to confront their past.

Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred headline the cast, but not in their familiar roles. McCoy, as the High Poet, brings a mix of charm and underlying duplicity, while Aldred delivers two distinct performances as Captain Gren and AJ. Aldred's dual roles as the captain of a Time Ship and sentient rust showcase her range and versatility. Joining them is 1980s icon Toyah Willcox, who plays The Band of Infinite Harmony, a multi-voiced role that she relishes, culminating in a solo song featured as a bonus track.

The story, set years after the events of "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy," follows Bellboy's ambitious plan to unite the Circus survivors. Facing the challenges of linear time, the script weaves a captivating narrative that blurs the lines between past and present. Christopher Guard's portrayal of a weary and desperate Bellboy stands out, embodying a rock star on the brink of burnout. His performance, along with those of Aldred, Dee Sadler as Flowerchild and Ella, and Ian Reddington as Delios, elevates the production. Reddington's dual performance of a poem by two versions of Delios is a highlight, encapsulating the story's bleak yet humorous tone.

The Circus team operates as a collective, with each member getting their moment in the spotlight. Sylvester McCoy's cameo as the High Poet adds a layer of eccentricity, and Toyah Wilcox's Band of Infinite Harmony shines as a musician transformed by the Gods of Ragnarok. The audio drama format is utilized to its full potential, delivering a bold and innovative listening experience.

The musical numbers are diverse, driving the narrative with wit and emotional honesty. While the absence of liner notes leaves one wanting more background on the songs, their contribution to the story is undeniable. The story's core message, that no one is truly alone, resonates through the performances, as the characters realize that both performers and audience are interdependent.

"Children of the Circus" is more than just a sequel; it's a celebration of the enduring legacy of "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy." The creative team of Hall, Eaton-Jones, and Guard have crafted a sequel that honors its source material while boldly charting new territory in the audio medium. The result is an exuberant, clever, and heartfelt production that showcases the power of storytelling and music. As the final line of the story aptly concludes, this is a performance that not only deserves an encore but also the rapturous applause of its audience.

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