BARBU Electro Trad Cabaret
Strength and silliness combine in this hilarious old-meets-new circus show
This article is from 2015.
If you’ve been hankering for a big dollop of hairy burlesque circus, then this deliciously tongue-in-cheek and raucous entertainment by the French-Canadian company Cirque Alfonse may well prove to be irresistible. The combination of old-school variety show riskiness and camp ‘nouvelle vague’ friskiness on offer here is a complete treat.
Barbu means bearded, which is what all the men in the cast (and, at one point, one of the women) are. The performance is structured as a series of acts that veer between feats of strength or displays of skill served up with a consistently off-the-wall sense of humour.
The pleasure starts with live music from a three-piece band that is authentically Quebecois, but battery-charged and ready and able to fuel fun. There’s plenty of the latter to be had, from an early roller skating routine and a bloke in a corset juggling silk scarves to four-man pole dancing. Other highlights include a human disco ball spinning within a Cyr wheel, cask-tossing (with real beer inside) and a magic trick involving a woman and a box that I’m still trying to figure out.
There’s also a quick, efficient bit in which another woman has a block of concrete sledgehammered off her stomach as she reclines on a bed of nails, plus a guest appearance by a hamster (insider knowledge: it’s Scottish). And I love what could be deemed the multimedia touch, meaning two large, wide screens positioned either side of the performing area and upon which various imagery is projected: swarming bees, rushing rivers, beard-eating, male limb depilation, etc.
Assembled with equal parts audacious silliness and a saucy grandeur, BARBU is hilarious, human and a helluva night out. Note that my hugely positive vibe had nothing to do with winning a raffle held during the show, that allowed me to throw not just one, but two, cream pies.
BARBU Electro Trad Cabaret, Underbelly’s Circus Hub, 0844 545 8252, until 29 Aug (not 26), 9.50pm, £17.50–£18.50 (£16.50–£17.50).