BWW REVIEW: Cirque Alfonse Blends Traditional Circus With Contemporary Culture In A Night Of Bearded Hipster Athleticism And Humour.
Saturday, 11th February 2017, 6pm, Studio, Sydney Opera House
Canadian circus troupe Cirque Alfonse returns to Australia, bringing their Hipster circus BARBU, filled with hirsute men to Sydney Opera House to delight audiences. Blending traditional circus skills with a contemporary styling, original live music and intriguing screen imagery, BARBU draws on the old world, dark, cabaret style Circus to present a grown up circus for a generation that wants to feel connected to the theatre experience.
The black box space of the Studio at the Sydney Opera House allows for 'in the round' viewing of the thrust stage that culminates in the circular stage. The black stage is bordered by small retro stage spots and the three piece band is set up at the start of the thrust. Two large screens rise above the balcony on either side of the thrust stage. With General Admission seating, it pays to secure your seat early to ensure optimum sight lines but the performers do also play to the whole room so provided you don't sit behind someone tall, you should still see everything.
As the audience settles, the screens play an intriguing loop of a hamster which makes sense later. Silver cones line the stage for the opening act following the introduction of the band and the ensemble of five males, and two female performers. The Master of Ceremonies come DJ, Keyboardist, and violinist David Simard is in somewhat traditional circus garb of red tailcoat and top hat. He is joined by the buxom corseted percussionist Josianne Laporte who also adds additional instrumentation with brass and vocals. Rounding out the trio, a bearded sailor on guitar Andre Gagne who also adds a wonderful vocal solo. Each male performers (Antonine Carabinier Lepine, Jonathan Casaubon, Francis Roberge, and Jean-Philippe Cuerrier) aside from Lucas Jolly who is in white robes reminiscent of something out of an Indian monastery, is unique but distinctly hipster with flannel shirts, waistcoats, bondage harnessing, corsets, and casual pants and of course, well maintained, full beards. The ladies, Genevieve Gauthier and Genevieve Morin, fit the image of traditional circus a little more closely, with one in striped bodysuit and billowing coat, the other in mini skirt and midriff top.
The well paced line up includes a skaters duet, Aerial Lira, strong men, juggling, Cyr Wheel, Chinese Pole and other feats of strength, agility and above all trust. Interspersed between the major acts, the white robed 'yogi' serves the role of the circus clown with pet hamster. On evolving balancing act forms the other running joke of the show as transitions are made between acts, all the while artistic scenes unfold on the screens above the stage which for the most part, don't seem to have much connection to any type of story unfolding but serve to satisfy the audience's need to be constantly stimulated.
BARBU is a wonderful immersive experience, and yes, if you sit near one of the aisles, there is a good chance that you will be up close and personal with the performers, which strip down to bikini briefs by the end of the show. With circus going through a wonderful resurgence, BARBU and Cirque Alfonse has created a fabulously fun twist on the genre whilst paying homage to the old world circus that many audience members appear to appreciate over the glitz and flash of bigger productions.
Images: Prudence Upton