With the floods and pending EU doom lurking in the air, there is nothing like a show at Southbank’s London Wonderground to keep your mind off things. If you have ever seen a show at Wonderground you know always to expect the unexpected, but nothing can quite prepare for you for the USP of French Canadian bearded circus. Cirque Alfonse’s Barbu is filling in some big shoes being headliners at the Spiegeltent, and as someone who has seen most of the Wonderground headliners over the last few years, there are big expectations.
According to Alain Francoeur, the show’s director, Barbu is a show that looks at the history of the circus and how it has changed from a moderate affair to a larger than life experience. But there is one thing that does not change, and that is the need to see something “larger than life or to help us escape from our realities” – but does it really do that?
To begin with, it might not seem that way. It is a slow builder: the opening performances fell flat with the audience, but juggling hats and a weird-looking man with a mannequin on his shoulder would do that to you as a viewer. You start to realise that it is an ode to the circus acts of old, and this is how tame this show is going to get. Before you know it, the clothes are off, the acts became a little bit more dangerous and the audience perkd up 1000%. Whether this is intentional act to get the audience hyped up we will never know, but hey, you cannot knock it! It does actually work.
Our leading men of the show do a fantastic job incorporating silly slapstick humour with impressive acrobatics. The skits might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and will definitely not be for the prude hearted, but if you have a filthy mind like this reviewer the production comes together completely. You start to see everything merging perfectly: the art installation-esque projections beaming off the walls, the very catchy music from Cirque Alfonse’s house band, gorgeous bearded men risking life and limb for our entertainment – what more could you ask for?
But while the gents of Barbu might have the starring role, the ladies of the troupe steal the show with their impressive routines. Genevieve Gauthier and Genevieve Morin get chucked about a lot during the show, but they are so impressive that with each turn and flip your jaw is an inch away from the floor, in Gauthier’s aerial hoop routine especially. They add the perfect touch to a show that might have fallen a little bit flat without it.
But by the end of the show you are absolutely sold, clapping along with the music and wanting the show’s antagonist to be pied in the face. The show sits up there with the impressive alumni that the Spiegeltent has offered in the past – but really, were we expecting any less? It does exactly what it says on the tin, and it will not be long before every night of this show is sold out – so get a ticket!
Barbu is playing at London Wonderground until 25 September. For more information and tickets, see the London Wonderground website.