BARBU Electro Trad Cabaret

One man shouldn't be able to hold two men on his shoulders at the same time. Two women shouldn't be able to function as skipping ropes. Hamsters weren't made to be performers. But that is what happens in Barbu Electo Trad Cabaret, as Cirque Alfonse produce a mesmerising and deliciously bonkers fanfare of strength, agility and beards.

There is a great deal of silliness to leaven the awe-inspiring, and in less frenetic moments they deliberately ruin each other's routines, by dirty means if necessary.

The show rolls up with a display of roller-skating, as they weave deftly around the stage in impressive formation, swinging over and under each others bodies, and at one point pulling each other along by beards alone. This unconventional opening builds to a woman being spun so close to the ground that she can create fire with the match in her mouth, and has the audience collectively forgetting to breathe.

Before you get bored of the roller-skating routine, the performers move on to another dizzifying acrobatic set. Using a see-saw they launch themselves into elaborate twists and landings, showing incredible muscle, poise and imagination, finding positions that should not seem possible. A woman contorts, cat-like, in and out of an hoop 20 feet in the air so quickly it is bewitching, leaving you unclear exactly what has just happened. Yet for all the drama and spell-binding performance this is no theatrical illusion; with arms visibly shaking, muscles almost aurally straining, the fourth wall tumbles and the aching, bruising, contusing reality of this spectacular madness is never in doubt.

For the first half of the show, each tremendous feat is presented with a wry nonchalance, as if they are merely shrugging, 'so what?' However, as the clothes come off to reveal very short pants, the acts become more triumphalist and playful. The show moves into something out of a dream, logic and sense warped, the stage becoming a frenzy of the strange and the engrossing. 

There is a human mirror ball, a magician who makes a girl disappear – and return with a beard – and some very energetic pole dancing, the likes of which you haven't seen before. There is a weird but oddly appropriate mash-up of a traditional strong man routine with something very camp and colourful, as the bearded men sashay their hips in time to the music and serenade audience members by means of massage and gyration. There is a great deal of silliness to leaven the awe-inspiring, and in less frenetic moments they deliberately ruin each other's routines, by dirty means if necessary.

The trad-electro Quebecois band is a fantastic accompaniment to the show, with the ringmaster/DJ leading the rhythm to the incredible and bizarre events witnessed on stage and bringing another layer of entertainment to the proceedings. Barbu Electro Trad Cabaret are all they claim to be and more: thoroughly impressive, enchanting and other-worldly in their abilities, and more than a little wild in imagination.

Reviews by Alice Quine

Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows

BARBU Electro Trad Cabaret

★★★★★
Sweet Grassmarket

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★★★
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★★
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★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

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★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Straying close to the edge in their exuberant circus rave, Canada's Cirque Alfonse fuses the traditional with the contemporary. Referencing the origins of Circus in the early 20th Century, BARBU revels in celebration of eccentric contemporary circus. An raucous circus cabaret where spectators are swept up in remarkable performances, outrageous feats, simple curiosities and unexpected eccentricities. Circus and mayhem collide to wow you with this adventure of spectacular skills, including a frenetic electro trad band. Don't miss this stunning show.