Adelaide Fringe 2017 Circus Review: Barbu

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 1.38.15 amBarbu

What: Barbu

Where: The Peacock at Gluttony

When: 8.30pm every night until 19th March and 10.30pm on 18th March

How much: Fringe Members $41.00, Full Price $49.00-$55.00, Concession $41.00-$49.00, Group 6+ $45.00

BARBU, from Montreal company Cirque Alfonse, has returned to Adelaide after a successful season at the 2016 Fringe Festival. Combining circus, physical theatre and live music, this quirky, original production has become a word-of-mouth favourite.

The show is named after the French word for ‘bearded’, and the male performers certainly lived up to the description. A black, red and white colour scheme and costuming with slightly retro touches including corsets and suspenders paid homage to the early days of the Quebec circus and cabaret in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The show got off to a thrilling start with daredevil roller skating and acrobatics. Other highlights included a beautiful aerial hoop number, a sweetly humorous balancing act involving golf clubs, and some wonderful feats of strength and daring during the tumbling acts. The live band, playing a darkly energetic style of electronic French Canadian folk music, also impressed and had a great response from the audience.

However, it seems that for the most part Cirque Alfonse had come not so much to wow the audience with their technical skills as to share their unusual and risqué style of humour and storytelling. This made for a braver, riskier show that didn’t always go smoothly. A couple of tricks were unsuccessful on the first try, while certain moments clearly intended to garner a reaction left many audience members blank, perhaps because we lacked a shared cultural background to contextualise the show. It’s likely that many more people would have joined in a singalong of “Alouette” in Montreal than did in Adelaide. Audience members should also come prepared for a few possibly confronting moments involving nudity, cast members swapping saliva and a man covered in whipped cream (or it may have been shaving cream, given the beardy theme of the show).

Overall, however, the energy in the venue was great and the audience response extremely positive, with plenty of laughter, enthusiastic applause and more than a few whistles. While this show didn’t hit every note for me personally, and was possibly a little less polished than you might expect for the price point, the troupe from Cirque Alfonse provided enough enthusiasm, humour and talent to make the night a success. And after all, part of what is great about the arts is having your tastes and preconceptions challenged by a show that’s a little out of your comfort zone.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Matilda Handsley-Davis

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