Roundhouse, London, CircusFest; 6th April 2016
The exuberant energy of Super Sunday makes the 75 minute show race by like the Finnish company’s namesake. It’s a theatrical explosion of thrill acts more usually seen in a big top arena than in a ‘contemporary circus’ context, and the seven men perform the show with an awareness of character, comic timing, subtle relationship dramas and situational context that creates an absorbing world.
Wherever the name Race Horse Company comes from, in this show we can see it as a humorous nod to the tradition of equestrian acts in circus – and a sly wink to the presence of merry-go-round ponies on fairground carousels. The show begins with a plodding parade of riders whose steeds appear buried up to the chest in the stage. It’s absurd, it makes us laugh, and it sets the tone for the rest of the show which, thankfully, develops a boozy cohesion of it’s own. This is a holiday for the lads away from work and family commitments, and the overall mood is of good natured high-jinx.
The company was formed by Petri Tuomineri, Rauli Kosonen and Kalle Lehto in 2008. In this show, they are joined by four more onstage collaborators, who all devised the show together. On the company website, a tongue-in-cheek recognition of their all-male cast states ‘performed by men, supervised by women’, presumably referring to their ‘outside eyes’ Victoria Cathala, Kati Pikkarainen and Vimala Pons.
In Super Sunday, childish and grown-up play blur their edges, and the presence of a game of cowboys or a giant teddybear sits comfortably within the adult world of the night-time funfair. It’s as if the men never truly lose the youth inside.
We see the teenage awkwardness of Lehto and Mikko Rinnevuori practising their (admittedly excellent) breakdance moves as if alone in their bedrooms; Odilon Pindat performs with all the glee of a precocious child-star in gender-bending leather lingerie, flinging himself from a self-designed trebuchet powered by four of the other men and made to look like a rollercoaster car; an inebriated carnival subversion shows us toga’d revellers shaking their own Jesus from a Russian bar crucifix, then clingfilming him to the Wheel of Death in a stag-do style ritual; a lovers’ tiff is reconciled in a complex and perfectly executed trampoline sequence between Kosonen, Mikko Karhu, and a celebration of brightly coloured balls. They work in absolute synchronisation, rhythm totally on point.
The co-ordination between the performers and the original soundtrack, composed by Sami Tammela and Ben Rogers, is superb throughout. Tammela works the sound-desk, fully attuned to the on-stage action and to the intricacies of his own musical creations, giving the effect of live musicianship in the timing of drum beats and electric guitars. Initially he was due to perform on stage, but broke both feet whilst rehearsing the Wheel of Death. It’s not clear from the programme who the seventh man is – perhaps Jere Mönkkönen or Klasu Eklund, who have created the lighting and set design.
As with the teeterboard sequence seen earlier, the company members work in relay on and off of the large stunt machine. We’re given time to appreciate every move and manipulation in an act that is more usually played for speed and a sense of immediate danger. Many of the show’s technical sequences are ended abruptly with a laugh-out-loud gag rather than building to a pinnacle of virtuosic climax. Postures in airborne sequences are choreographed to look nonchalant and natural.
The energy of the performers and the thrilling rhythms is infectious, and the heights they reach earn them the down-time needed to rig trampolines in a cleverly lit transition that holds the attention. I want to know what mad game they will come up with next – a nunchuck display and faux ninja-off, or backwards somersaults via large orange exercise balls, for example.
The Super Sunday world is slightly nutty, but always clear and exceptionally entertaining, performed as it is by a team to whom humour is as important as pushing their physical innovation. I’m not generally in the business of handing out starred reviews, but I did also cover this show for weekly performing arts paper The Stage, which you can read – with stars – here.