As FRINGE WORLD has grown and evolved since its inception in 2011, it’s easy to forget its humble roots. A fringe festival is only possible because of its opposition, i.e., what’s on the fringe of-a polished, more mainstream event.
Waiting outside the looming UFO/ ark-like venue that is the Opticum at the far end of the Urban Orchard, I exchange nervous glances with other ticket holders, curious about what’s inside the giant wooden sphere.
Upon entering, I navigate down vertigo-inducing stadium seats into the belly of a claustrophobic theatre in the round. As the show begins, the performers are so close that I can smell them, and a literal knife’s blade separates each viewer from a pared back, bizarre collection of circus acts.
Throughout the 30-minute tease of a performance, I am on edge and simultaneously confronted and captivated by the raw, gritty, sideshow alley experience.
There’s something a bit unhinged about each performer, something wild and feral and utterly wonderful.
They’re an undeniably talented troupe of international heritage-Finnish, Mexican, Dutch and French-and yet there’s the feeling that they’ve been practicing these stunts in dark and dirty gypsy caravan parks.
It’s as if each and every member of the audience has unwittingly stumbled onto the set of a David Lynch film, locked in a cabin of surreal oddities and delights.
The appeal of this show is its unvarnished, raw nature-the weirdness and danger of the freakshow assault you from all angles. If you’re looking for the bigger budget, shiny charm that many fringe shows flaunt, this show isn’t for you. Thunderdog Circus isn’t afraid to put the freak back into fringe. This is true fringe. Thunderdog is an underdog worth taking a punt on.