Tabarnak: Cirque Alfonse

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Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows

Aug 14-19, 21-25 (19.00)


My Canadian friends inform me that “Tabarnak” is a pretty strong cuss word in Quebecois’ French; what you exclaim when you see something outrageously fantastic. Well, Tabarnak to that! Circus Alfonse return to the Fringe after 2015’s outstanding “Barbu”, with a new show that wows the audience to their feet in applause at their sexy, boisterous, electro-trad inflected acrobatics. Just as muscular and edgy as usual, these guys and girls have a swagger about them that belies their sheer skill.

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When the lights went up the audience could have been forgiven for thinking that the performers were late, or hadn’t even shown up. The stage was littered with artefacts of one of the great religions of French speaking Canada – ice hockey. A song started by one of the figures on stage picked up by one after another unfolds into a rollerskating acrobatic routine. It’s impressive stuff but these guys are just warming up.

By way of a short musical number (and the live band gives a mesmerising accompaniment throughout), the show shifts to a mood that will be familiar to anyone who has seen Cirque Alfonse – a left-field, cultic vibe. Under a peculiarly profane stained-glass backdrop, bell-ringing campanologists, in their underpants, begin spinning into the high top tent on the end of bell-ropes. It’s like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys meets Punk Rock.

The performers complement each other well, with each having a different style, be it powerful and explosive or light and acrobatic. The overall result is a demonstration of absolute trust and perfect timing. The effect on the audience is mesmerising. What makes this troupe stand apart from other cirque acts is their smell-of-the-wild homespun presentation. There’s an anarchic feel to their show that mixes ice-hockey, religion, an industrial vibe and, at one point, a home-knitted take on Sufi Whirling Dervishes. The show ended with a powerful routine on a chain swing that brought the audience cheering to a standing ovation. Superb music, awesome stunts and great presentation left the audience howling for more.

Mark Mackenzie

five-stars

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