Railed is the newest offering from fringe-circuit regulars, the Head First Acrobats hailing from Australia. Playing in the Assembly Gardens Variety, the four-man cast bring incredible energy to their early evening but still raucous hour of acrobatic acts. Loosely themed as “sexy wild west bandits”, Cal Harris, Thomas Gorham, Harley Timmermans, and Adam McMahon burst on to the stage and never once let the energy drop.
A great start to an evening of circus and variety at the festival
For those seeking novelty on the Fringe circus scene, Railed might be a good destination. The troupe bring an impressive array of costumes, props, and apparatuses, keeping the audience always on its toes. In addition to the core acrobatic tools – precariously stackable chairs, a cyr wheel, a freestanding ladder, and a teetertotter – the boys also bring out aerial straps and a diabolo juggling act as well as extensive props including bottles, a table, sparking dynamite, and a wider array of costume pieces than you’re probably expecting.
The visual extravaganza and driving (if not on-theme) music keep energy up even during act transitions as the boys grandstand to the audience and fulfill the other promise of Railed’s marketing – sex appeal. The four acrobats are not shy and play up a charged atmosphere, occasionally toying with strip tease, but the balance between sex and the absurdist humour employed throughout is difficult to balance and often seems off-kilter. Whenever the level of raunch got too high – and necessarily homoerotic, given the single-sex cast – a joke is quick on the moment’s heels, undercutting and neutering any potential sexual frisson. This dynamic escalates into the final, surreal sequence, which borders on clowning. I won’t spoil it – the surprise and absurdity is a large part of the joy – but to my eyes humour absolutely won over genuine sexiness and I wish I hadn’t been disappointed by that choice.
Nevertheless, the Head First team pulled an enthusiastic and vocal crowd, and put on a dynamic and entertaining show. The diabolo juggling by McMahon was an unexpected highlight both as a piece of character work and stand-alone skill, and was exemplary of the sort of variety that kept the show light and fun. Railed would be a great start to an evening of circus and variety at the festival.