Barbu – it’s a sexy lumberjack pirate circus party

Barbu 1-001

Barbu | Salon Perdu Speigeltent | Until Feb 3 | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Canada’s Cirque Alfonse bring their highly acclaimed show Barbu to Fringe World for the first time and it lives up to the hype.

The show features a live band who create a unique atmosphere filling the speigeltent with gypsy-electro sounds. The performers are tough, butch and very physical.

While you’ve probably seen acrobatics, tumbling and circus tricks before, it’s usually performed by lithe, slender, feather-like creatures. Here brutish strength, beards and tough attitude are the order of the day – and its not just the boys in the cast who embody that description. 

The crew begin with a display of roller skating acrobatics, twisting and turning at speed. Cast members whiz in on wheels proving additional props for each trick. Their steely stares at the audience creating a sense of confrontation.

The burly bearded men provide a showcase of balancing, tumbling and balancing. Leaping up on to each others shoulders, creating human towers of strength. You can see the power it takes to hold two large men above you, muscles quiver, sweat beads on foreheads.

The show’s aesthetic is positively hipster. My companion leans over an whispers that there are moments where it looks like all the baristas have runaway and joined the circus.

A performer appears with three coloured straw hats and begins juggling them, the hats spin in the air, they look like they are defying gravity. Soon two more performers join in and nine hats are flying through the space, passing from one to another, synchronised perfection.

Many things are juggled through out the show, metal tins, skittles, other cast members and finally a beer keg. Except it’s not just a giant metal beer keg that’s being juggled. A giant metal beer keg is juggled while being part of a balancing act.

There feats of strength are punctuating by lighter moments of humor and odd quirkiness. Dressed in white an older gentleman appears, he has two heads – one real one puppet. It’s a Zaphod-Beeblebroxian sword swallowing act.

Magic tricks are performed, the intricate ballet of balance gets more complex and the cast’s inhibitions begin to fall away. With each moment the show gets progressively more upbeat, things become very jovial and incredibly sexy.

BArbu 2-001

In the later part of the show the cast strip down to just their black underwear, and the steely stares are replaced with knowing winks and inveigling looks. The whole cast is on stage waving their hips back and forth.

So much happens in this show, it’s peppered with tiny moments of humour and such a wide range of circus skills are presented. The show’s great achievement though is that it clearly has it’s own distinctive personality and it takes the audience along on an emotional journey.

After watching this show you down a few drinks and discuss its deeper meaning in relation to themes of masculinity and bravado, but at it’s centre – this is a great party show.        

Get tickets to see Barbu from Fringe World.

Graeme Watson 

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