‘Super Sunday’, by Racehorse Company

Review from: Underbelly Circus Hub (Lafayette), Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 14th August 2019

Racehorse Company‘s show Super Sunday has lots of posters at the Fringe. One huge image dominates all their flyers and marketing: The Wheel of Death. In full spin, with two performers inside. It’s no secret then what their big finale will be. People coming to see this show have been promised danger, and that’s exactly what they will get.

We take our seats in the big top, the stage is smokey, with a large canvas sheet draped across, keeping the toys behind it a mystery for now. Faint, ethereal music plays. Around 300 people shuffle into the 600 seater tent, a midweek show is hard to fill when you don’t have the family friendly appeal… However, dotted amongst the audience there are a handful of children, some very young. Afterwards I will wonder what they thought of the whole thing. A homemade horse costume pokes through the canvas sheet. It’s going to be a weird ride.

Racehorse Company live up to their reputation with this show (which, if you haven’t seen/heard of them already can be summed up into: unbelievably dangerous and high skill tricks, with a sprinkling of dark humour verging on the absurd).

The theme of this show seems to be danger. Every act, every apparatus they wheel out from their fairground collection piled up at the back of the stage, increases in danger as the show goes on. Teeterboard, Russian bar, catapults and unique human counterweight powered contraptions provide thrills not matched in any other circus show at the Fringe this year. The power comes from humans and therefore its all the more exciting to watch. (Five motorbikes in a cage ain’t got nothing on these guys.) Some of the non-apparatus acts are the most entertaining, juggling a sledgehammer, co-ordinated nunchuck fighting, and silly horse trampette tricks. Motifs like winning a stuffed teddy bear but with the threat of serious injury looming really gets an audience invested. There are gasps, laughs and some pretty confused faces at some points. When the Wheel of Death is assembled and begins to be spun, silence falls. We are gripped, there’s a great reason it’s called the Wheel of Death. It’s because people have died (we’re a creative bunch sometimes). The audience is not released from its spell until the final performer steps out unharmed. They erupt into the biggest applause of the night. 

Racehorse Company in Super Sunday IMAGE: Pierre Borasci

The show is as weird as it is dangerous. A leather jacketed Jesus, a parade of horses (and sheep), suddenly going from a carnival to a religious theme… it’s all a bit too much and yet not enough at the same time. Whilst the trampolines or wheels or other kit are being assembled on stage the audience are often left to wait, with something not very relevant or entertaining happening on the stage. Often a performer is just lying there. Unmoving. After finishing one act, they build what they need for the next act. Sometimes we are treated to a blast from the smoke machine and some strobe lights to hide what it is they are setting up. But mostly these in between sections – necessary for the acts to be constructed – feel very empty and a gear shift from what we’ve just seen.

Often in circus shows, a large scale act that requires a lot of assembly is reserved until last – and usually only one per show. Taking for example the Globe of Death in Zippo’s Cirque Berserk. Because of the time on stage that will be empty – with most people working on setting up and checking the equipment – you normally need to avoid the voids that these kind of acts create at all costs. Super Sunday has so many of these kinds of set-up-needing acts that their whole show feels punctuated by voids. They have tried to fill them, but with not very much. Racehorse Company claim that Super Sunday is ‘Implementing the company’s wildest dreams and bringing them on stage‘. Which, when it comes to watching people set up equipment every 10 minutes in order to live out their dream… makes the audience feel a little forgotten. I really was on a rollercoaster of, ‘can’t believe my eyes’ to ‘might just close my eyes for five minutes‘. A notable let down of what would otherwise be a perfect show.

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