I have great admiration for anyone who can get through a whole spin class without the aid of a paramedic, so it’s major kudos to Kate Sumpter for doing an hour of spin every day at Edinburgh Fringe as part of their solo show, aptly titled Spin, playing at Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose.
Our fitness instructor’s class is just getting underway as we enter the space, or should that be studio? But it turns out this is not a normal class. Shouting encouragement to the audience, we learn that she’s landed an audition to be an instructor at the “superbowl” of fitness studios. With a chance of future glory as a fitness superstar, she reflects on the events that have led to her “crushing relentless positivity” and discovers a few demons along the way.
The backstory she is initially pedalling may not be the whole truth, as it plays out we find out more about her unwavering desire to achieve perfection, not just for herself but also for others, something that has permeated the whole family.
As our instructor seeks the forgiveness she so desperately craves, the sheen of positivity fades and Spin, directed by Sarah Jane Schostack, shifts gear between riotous comedy and searching introspective; witty observations about gym buffs blend seamlessly with confessions, sorrow and guilt.
The playlist that accompanies this class transitions from the kind of motivational bangers you would expect, to deeper pulsating tracks that go on to set a different tone. The mirror attached to the back wall not only represents the gym class setting, but also forces the audience to (literally) look at themselves and reflect on their own views on the topics covered.
Kate Sumpter’s gripping performance has the audience enthralled; turning up the resistance when the story gets tougher, easing off in those lighter comedy moments.
For some people the idea of a spin class is pure hell, while for others, like our protagonist, it’s a drug. But in the same way, if abused the quest for perfection can have dire consequences, and the relentless marketing of perfection can be found in every part of society. “Performance is a part of fitness”, says Sumpter, and this performance is an artist at their peak.