The publicity blurb for After Dark Theatre’s newest offering at this year’s Fringe Festival challenges the audience to ponder the question – ‘Who are the Barbaroi?’
The question is answered as soon as you walk into the intimate Ukiyo Theatre in Gluttony. The Barbaroi are a street gang similar to the ones that sleazed through movies like The Outsiders. And outsiders they are as they inhabit a dystopian universe where they sneer, leer, prance and pout at each other and the audience.
The intimacy of the Ukiyo Theatre has the Barbaroi face to face with the front row and they maintain their sassy, sexy and menacing attitude for the entire performance. I sat in the very front row and found it confronting, dangerous and exhilarating, and at times I felt as if I was in the same wild streets as these barbarians.
And what a ride they take you on. These streets that are dark and foreboding are the playground of the Barbaroi as they challenge each other to feats of strength, balance and contortion. These are muscular and acrobatic feats that should not be attempted by mere mortals.
After Dark Theatre are a troupe of exquisitely trained gymnasts, acrobats and contemporary dancers who individually have performed in flagship companies like Cirque du Soleil and Circus Oz. The choreography and design by Avan Whaite and Stan Ricketson are at the cutting edge where dance meets physical theatre, meets circus, as the Barabaroi juggle, balance, perform breathtaking aerial work on the corde lisse and turn sheets of Perspex into uneven bars and balance beams. All of this is done to a grimy and grainy soundtrack that adds to the dark and malevolent streetscape. And just when you relax and slip into a comfort zone, the switchblade comes out, street gang style to keep you on edge and right inside that gangland movie.
I could go on about the tricks and routines. They are amazing. And the choreography is riveting which is what launches After Dark Theatre into a realm occupied by the very best theatre practitioners. What I really enjoyed was to allow myself to get distracted every now and then, away from what was happening centre stage and marvel at the tableaux that that the performers who were having a breather were creating. They straddled the scaffolding at various height levels and in various poses of menacing street wise attitude and camaraderie. From their vantage positions above and behind centre stage, they postured and gestured, urging those in the spotlight to greater feats of strength or balance and encouraging those who may have had a minor slip to have another crack at the trick to get it right.
This edginess is within the design concept for the show and gives it an hour of real dramatic tension.
Barbaroi is really sassy with tight choreography. Definitely one of the best shows at this year’s Fringe Festival.
Fringe Review By Bob Becker
Ticket and show information at FringeTix