Barbu at the Southbank’s Spiegeltent
Take all the regular expectations of a circus show, turn them upside down, shake them about a bit and stick a pair of skin-tight briefs on them – the result: Cirque Alfonse’s latest extravaganza, Barbu. Straight from Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez in Quebec, Barbu is the headline circus act for the 2016 edition of the Southbank’s London Wonderland festival and doesn’t fail in providing all the oddities and curiosities that spectators flock to the festival each year to see.
Kicking off to a relatively tame start, the troop of six performers put on a dazzling display of acrobatics and magic in the festival’s performance venue, the Paradiso Spiegeltent. This mystical mirrored circus tent is brought to life by an enchanting live electro-folk soundtrack that allows the musicians to interact directly with the performers and their various acts. The dynamic in the room is raw and alive and the show soon starts to spiral out of control, dragging the audience out of their reality and into one that is infinitely more absurd.
Bizarre background video clips add to the building mayhem as the acts become more and more out of hand and the performers take a hold over their audience, making them cringe one minute at their skilled clumsiness onstage and roar with laughter the next at their ridiculous straight-faced dancing. A mentalist and a two-headed man harp back to early circus performances and freak shows, whilst hipster beards and casual nudity place us firmly in the present day, all interlaced with a strong Franco-Canadian influence and references to Quebecois tradition. And it might not seem the most obvious form of entertainment, but who knew just how thrilling watching a man wearing nothing but a disco ball precariously spinning in a giant hula-hoop and manically shooting light left, right and centre could really be?
Hilarious, random and deliriously sexy, Barbu is the most captivating alternative circus show that anyone could hope to see this summer. It represents the London Wonderland festival perfectly and shouldn’t be missed before the end of its run in September.
Barbu is on at the Southbank’s Spiegeltent as part of the London Wonderground Festival from 15th June until 25th September 2016. Book your tickets here.