BARBU | Cirque Alfonse | Southbank’s Spiegeltent
French-Canadian Circus company Cirque Alfonse opened their extraordinary raw and raunchy circus show BARBU headlining at the London Wonderground on the London South Bank for a summer run after a critically acclaimed European premiere at Edinburgh festival in 2015. Cirque Alfonse’s founder member Antoine Carabinier-Lépine explores the origins of the circus in Montreal at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Inspired by traditional iconic Quebec images Cirque Alfonse has created this astonishing, baroque and colourful interpretation of contemporary circus.
With an electric mix of cabaret and circus this troupe of professional acrobats and versatile musicians, compromising of five heavily bearded, lumberjack clad men and two supple, flexible strong woman take you on a rollercoaster of a journey with extraordinary dare-devil feats of strength (one man balancing two big men on his shoulders) and skill, juggling a variety of objects from hats to a full beer barrel, roller skating whilst balancing bodies, pole dancing, spinning in giant hula hoops, illusion and pure unadulterated madness. All this with the accompaniment of a brilliant Electro Trad band who play a kind of Gallic folk fusion conjuring up a real sense atmospheric wonderment, think fairgrounds and macabre curiosity shows!
Three rows back from the stage I was in the thick of it, I felt completely immersed in the whole experience, and you could virtually smell it. These solid almost Neanderthal bodies presented a sort of subversive and androgynous, gender fluid feel. But what struck me the most was the enormous fun they seemed to be having, which spread to their audience like wildfire and had me willing them to succeed in each and every death-defying act.
The second half had the troupe stripping down to their underpants, provocative, skilful, bizarre, entertaining and full of humour. Perhaps it was that humour and the ability to laugh at themselves that made this a truly enjoyable evening, and ultimately the mastery of this fine company to involve the audience and have them sitting on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
Catch BARBU at the Spiegeltent, London Wonderground, Jubilee Gardens, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX.
Showing until Sunday 25th September 2016