*****

By Nick Pilgrim

This review may contain spoilers

In more than ten years of reviewing for Theatre People, I have had the honour of critiquing a vast array of live entertainment. These categories include cabaret, comedy, dance, musicals, plays and special events.

Circus arts are a fascinating subset of their own. A special blend of sport and theatre, they combine feats of skill with mime, acrobatics, dance, rapid hand-eye coordination, and general clowning.

Past shows from this genre I have covered include Briefs, Hot Brown Honey, Kapow, Lano & Woodley, Le Noir, Precarious (Circus Oz), Shaun The Sheep’s Circus Show, Velvet, Voila, and Werk It – Tight Fit.

Whether they catered to the young or young at heart, each of the above endeavours brought a clever (and unique) vision to this age-old craft. Presented by Head First Acrobats, Railed is no exception.

Built around a Wild West theme, the basic story involves four bandits on the run. They stumble across a saloon, and from there, the chaos and the fun begin.

For sixty jam-packed minutes the talented team dazzle in a succession of routines, each more elaborate and jaw-dropping than the last.  Whether presented as solo performances, in rotating pairs and trios, or as an ensemble, the contagious energy never stops. Moody lighting design and a selection of Country & Western music provide a nice backdrop to the atmosphere as well.

Some of Railed’s cheeky highlights which need to be seen to be believed included:

  • An aerial ballet where the performer was suspended by his teeth;
  • Breakneck bottle sliding on a rotating bar top;
  • Gravity – defying handstands on a freestanding ladder;
  • Backflips and tumbling from a seesaw catapult;
  • Pinpoint whip cracking;
  • Mock brawling;
  • Balancing on a growing stack of wooden chairs; and,
  • A freeform yoyo dance with several repeat showings.

These acts were tied together with an ongoing card trick which was neatly placed. (Just when I thought I had seen everything, special mention needs to go to a hilarious lap dance late in the show between a horse and a unicorn. I don’t think I have laughed that much in ages.)

Viewers are also encouraged to bring in drinks purchased from the foyer’s bar; bottles of bubbly and champagne glasses were clearly in evidence on opening night. Everyone it seems, was determined to have a good time. (I can’t think of a better plan to chase away the autumn blues.)

A quick scan of the audience indicates that Railed will most likely appeal to hen’s nights and gay men. Or indeed, viewers who enjoy something a little more daring and out there. The guys are highly aware of their target demographics, playing to and structuring the overall experience around this focus. At times the quartet flirt and strut bare chested, wearing little more than suspenders and chaps. Railed is that kind of show.

It seems amusing that only last week I reviewed a children’s show at the very same venue.  Such is the versatility of the Gasworks Theatre space. Furthermore, after the abrupt cancellation of Magic Mike Live at Birrarung Marr in 2021 due to ongoing lockdowns, Railed is the perfect opportunity to take in a concept designed specifically for punters sixteen and over.

The show only runs for three nights in Albert Park until this Saturday. Catch the crazy, sweaty fun while you can.