Review: Adrenaline at the Excel
Adrenaline by Equicirque
In a nutshell
An equestrian spectacular that started with a sizzle and transformed to a fiery finale.
An action-packed equestrian show promising breathtaking stunts and heart-in-the-mouth horsemanship seemed a perfect way to spend a dreary weekday evening for a novice like myself.
Up until the summer of 2012, my ventures into the world of thoroughbreds and show horses had been limited to the occasional race meet, eventing viewed from the comfort of my sofa and a flutter on the Grand National.
But like so many of us this August, I became wrapped up in Olympic fever and it was a passion for all things horses that came out on-top.
Clued up on my dressage dictionary after a day at the Paralympics in Greenwich Park, I arrived with excitement at an Excel bathed in a dramatic purple-pink light, for the world-first Adrenaline by Equicirque - a show encompassing six of the world's best equestrian performance artists.
Double gold-medallist Natasha Baker set the scene for a sparkling evening but if I'm honest, the opening was a little slow out of the blocks, compared to the immediate, high-intensity "adrenaline" rush that it was billed as.
There was the sound of banging drums, the lights dimmed to black and a number of scenes reflected from the screens onto the sand - all with the intention of creating atmosphere and drama but just falling short of packing a punch.
And the chilly Excel hardly helped to foster enthusiasm and I sat watching the show wrapped up in my coat and pashmina.
The fire came immediately with the first performance, with a lit pole that the skilled rider moved around his body and horse, in a performance where the dressage footwork excelled and the relationship between horse and rider shone through.
Be in no doubt - the lack of atmosphere bared no correlation to the quality of the horsemanship on show - that was fantastic.
With every dressage step and routine, the understanding between horse and rider was evident, and it was warming to see their trust and bond on-show.
Performer Joel Chacon's enactment of the journey of the Marquis de Monte Cru made for a story with comic moments and a tight routine, turning the atmosphere from simmering into a strong canter and an injection of pace provided by slick performers Los Rios saw the production sprint to the half-way mark.
The group's dare-devil streak and riding skills were showcased as the performers rode their horses on the side-saddle, from an upside down position with their heads scarily close to the floor and travelling backwards in the saddle - just what I expected from the outset.
And despite a break of about 30 minutes, the second half followed with the same vigor and spirit as it had left off.
The Hap O Temp duo brought talented riding and dressage skills in a simultaneous performance inside a ringed area, with the female rider ensuring the audience was on the edge of its seats during mesmerising display of jumps and postures on the back of the horse, as it galloped around its circular route.
A display of acrobatics from Gravity introduced a welcome taste of the circus to proceedings, while Clemence Faivre's routine depicted the beauty of the horse as it danced around its master with fancy footwork and a spectacular rearing horse stance.
But the final act, Lorenzo and his troop of 12 grey Lusitano horses was the stuff dreams are made of.
His total control of the beautiful mammals was a delight to see, as he rode bareback tackling jumps and hurdles with ease from his position straddled across two horses.
As well as pinpoint control of his act, Lorenzo had the audience in the palm of his hand, hanging onto his every jump and willing him to do more.
And he delivered. His acrobatics jumping over a high pole and returning to the backs of his horses, without a step out of place was amazing, as was the control over his flock in manoeuvring them into circles and meticulously-planned routines of skill.
And as the curtain closed, the show left me with a passion to see more. What started out as a slow trot had steamed into the paddock as a winning performance.
Adrenaline runs until November 18 at the Excel.
Go to equicirque.com.