Cirque Noir plays against the backdrop of 1927 Chicago. A city torn apart by the current prohibition.
This page gives you some information about the way the circus came to be. We strongly advice you to read the design document (released November 1st) to get a proper picture of what life in the circus looks like.

Soriée Noir

Soirée Noir was founded 35 years ago by Stephan Fournier, the eldest son of first generation French immigrants. America was the land of hopes and dreams and promises of a bright future, but Stephan was shocked by the horrible way people were treated. He started his theatre because he truly believed he could offer a family to those who needed it most.
Fournier’s circus never had the freaks traditional sideshows were known for. Fournier was a man of principles and believed that dignity was a basic human right. Therefore, he refused to exhibit “his” people. Stephan always paid his artists well and had a tendency to give away free tickets to the poor and less fortunate, who would otherwise not be able to come see the show.
However, his generosity and kindness was also the reason for Soriée Noir’s demise. The show could hardly be called traditional and looked more like a variety show during most of its performances. When the circus was drowning in debts and couldn’t be saved anymore, Fournier decided to start conversations with Ironfire.

By Ork de Rooij
Photo by Ork de Rooij

Romulus & Remus

Romulus & Remus was a spectacle in each and every way. Led by the charismatic Ironfire (born as the American Nicholas Camden) they were one of the biggest traveling shows of America. With its elaborate sideshow they crossed the country from east to west, bringing entertainment and distraction wherever they went.
The biggest crowd-pleaser during the shows was the tiger, Remus. The animal had a reputation of killing and eating humans whenever it got the chance. The crowds held their breath as the tamer could hardly control the huge beast and wrestled it in front of a sold-out venue.
Naturally, everyone belonging to the circus knew the tiger was well-trained and not dangerous at all, but they also knew that the crowds got most excited by perceived near-death action, and the act was perfectly suited for it. Unfortunately, both the act and the circus died when the tiger did: Remus was shot during one of the shows, killing the main act and the circus in one go.

Post-merge; Cirque Noir

The merge of Soirée Noir and Romulus & Remus was born solely out of the need for money. Both camps virulently opposed the merge, to no avail.
Several individuals still think that the decision of merging both circuses was done with undue haste. Although both Ironfire and Fournier knew there would be differences of opinion and that there would be some reluctance among their people, both of them never realised the enormous impact the merge really made.
The first posters of the new circus proudly displayed a freak and an artist, side by side, as main acts, as if making a statement that both groups would be equally contributing to the circus, and should thus be treated as such. However, behind the scenes, the members of the circus weren’t so eager to accept each other. Now, six years later, the tension between the different groups can still be felt. The fact that several acts of the two circuses were similar and were forced to work together as one act didn’t help, although almost everyone reluctantly agreed to this demand, afraid to lose their place in the show, their jobs and, ultimately, their safe haven.
Of course, towards the audience and the press, both ringmasters were best friends and were getting along very well ,despite their original differences. However, the rumors that they often had heated arguments and fights spread like wildfire within the circus. The first fight that nobody within the circus could have missed was when Fournier, as he was used to do, tried to hand out free tickets. The city where they had pitched their tents housed a large orphanage, and Fournier gave a large amount of front row tickets away to the orphans and some street urchins, with the intention of giving them the night of their lives. Camden was furious: the merge had been a necessity brought on by a lack of money in the first place, and now his so called partner gave away their best and most expensive tickets to some low-life orphans!
The fights grew more heated and happened more often and they clearly started to take their toll on Fournier. He became pale, ate less and spend most of his time alone. There were whispers about him having contracted some kind of heart disease. Several days later, the cook, who came looking for him when he didn’t show up for breakfast, found him. He had died in his sleep. After a short examination, the circus doctor concluded it was a heart attack. Fournier was buried, with only a select few in attendance.
After the death of Fournier, Cirque Noir had only one ringmaster, and it became a matter of time before Ironfire tried to shift the balance back towards his sideshow. The classic performers of Fournier’s circus weren’t happy about this, but what could they do? Most of them didn’t have the freedom to leave the circus and find other jobs: the circus was their last safe haven. Some did complain that the crowds often threw rotten food or small stones at them as if they were ordinary freaks, but only did so when the ringmaster wasn’t there to hear them.
Of course, there would always be some discontent, but after six years most of the circus crew seem to tolerate one another. An agreement has been reached, and even though the stars of the show still mostly seem to be the freaks, most artists do get a chance to shine. Of course, the expensive first row seats are mostly filled by local elites, but whenever the tickets can’t be sold and empty seats are imminent, tickets are given away for free to the less fortunate, in memory of Fournier.
However, now that those empty seats stay empty,  and money is becoming a problem once again, old issues are rekindled, and the atmosphere grows more grim every day…

By Ork de Rooij