This is bonkers circus with a vintage twist performed by a troupe of talented acrobats and musicians from Canadian company Cirque Alfonse, which has taken inspiration from the acts presented in Montreal fairgrounds more than a century ago.
On a hot afternoon in The Panama Club at the Royal Croquet Club, the audience was immediately roused by a loud and lively mixture of electronic and traditional Quebec folk music played by a live band incorporating guitar, violin, drums and a DJ.
Then the acrobats appeared – an eccentric -looking bunch including two very flexible women, four muscular chaps with beards and flowing locks, and a bizarre mentalist/magician. Suddenly, we were sucked into a whirlwind of daring, mad and manic acts.
There were routines using roller skates, hoola hoops, golf clubs, a bed of nails, juggling objects, an aerial ring, poles and springboard, plus myriad human pyramids that displayed the incredible strength of the performers: no safety nets here, just skill, trust and daring.
All were performed against a screen backdrop featuring everything from dancing flowers to hairs being plucked from a face, with the acrobatics interspersed with mad displays of mentalism and magic.
In the second half, the acrobats stripped to their smalls and things took an even sharper turn towards crazy town – but in a good way. Think keg juggling, a cheeky male pole-dancing routine, and a human disco ball in a Cyr wheel.
Driven by a distinctly masculine energy, the performance was infused with humour and mischievousness. Cheeky running gags and interaction encouraged audience members to feel like more than simply voyeurs. But be warned, while the program advises “mild nudity” there were occasional glimpses of what would more accurately be described as “extreme nudity”.
Barbu is an intimate show full of humour, audacity, energy and weirdness, backed by a great live soundtrack. It doesn’t get more Fringe than that.
Barbu Electro Trad Cabaret is at the Royal Croquet Club until March 14.
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