Barbu by Cirque Alphonse @ Bonython Hall at RCC Fringe, Adelaide, 28/2/2019

Quebec company Cirque Alphonse are in Adelaide for a return season of the successful and popular Barbu Electro Trad Cabaret show they have been performing for several years now. For those who don’t know, this is a show that looks back to a time when bearded Carney folk displayed their talents and versatility but at the same time, Cirque Alfonse embrace a modern style with live band accompaniment of a sailor/workman guitarist, a ringmaster on violin and electronics and pounding drums by an S&M madam encompassing musical diversions from electro into cheesy popcorn style themes and krautrock.

The show starts simply enough with a couple of routines on roller-skates and some multicoloured hat juggling broken up by the appearance of the creepy, sinister hamster puppet master we later learn to be known as Loukas Le Mentaliste with routines including his two headed man faux sword swallowing and a twist on the familiar magician style woman in a box routine. He returns later in the show and becomes a human puppet master doing some radical sexual reprogramming on an audience member with great comedic effect.

There are multiple routines with various permutations of the cast including intermittent returns to a failed/sabotaged attempt at balancing golf clubs, a man wearing what appears to be a giant silver glitter ball-pumpkin around his midriff for an oversized hula hoop act and a sequenced of women’s stylised wrestling and acrobatics, during which the drummer ventures centre stage brandishing a whip and commanding the routine.

Everyone returns in their underwear for a sequence of male and female pole dancing after which Loukas towels down the pole and the men position themselves on the pole as though it is a vertical rotisserie skewer before the band play a version of Careless Whisper and a couple of audience members get their own private dances.

In the finale, Loukas appears trapped and hanging in some kind of S&M red punching bag and is made fun of and bullied by the other performers (including a whipped cream pie in the face by a winning audience member) before ending up humiliated, nearly naked.

If you have not seen this show before then you would be numbered among only a few as there have been multiple seasons on and off at the Adelaide Fringe in past years. Surprisingly this show was only just reclassified to M in the past week from the original PG rating at the request of Cirque Alfonse in an effort to address the brief nudity and sexual references. The current run is coming to a close this weekend so I recommend you see it prior to the changeover to their other successful show Tarbanak.

Fringe Review by Jason Leigh

Three shows left for Cirque Alfonse: BARBU, get your tickets at Fringe-Tix.

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