Thursday, 23 June 2016

Review: Barbu at the Southbank Centre’s Spiegeltent

Southbank Centre (Spiegeltent)
Reviewed on Wednesday 22nd June 2016

The Southbank is alive with the sound of French-Canadians, as Cirque Alfonse rolls into town. Following up from their last outing in 2013 with Timber! the group returns to the London Wonderground with the eclectic Barbu.

Part circus, part magic show and part totally bonkers, the show incorporates a number of acts that are designed to thrill. From an acrobatic see-saw, to a man hula-hooping whilst dressed as a giant glitter ball (no really), there's plenty to keep you entertained here.

The acts are the standard modern circus fare, with aerial hoop work, clowning, and some dangerously close to the audience roller skating - but mixed in with Cirque Alfonse's extremely dry humour. There are some lovely moments of intentional and unintentional comedy. 

At the press performance the Spiegletent lost power fifteen minutes into the show, prompting an impromptu and delightful intimate set from the show's band - which kept the audiences spirits up until electricity was restored ten minutes later. It's a credit to the company for keeping the energy flowing in what is genuinely the HOTTEST theatre space in London. Definitely dress in as little clothing as possible, because the air flow is uncomfortably non-existant. 

There's plenty to feast your eyes on however, particularly as the heat inside the auditorium prompts the athletic performers to strip to their (extremely small) smalls. If the lumberjack look is your bag then you'll be thoroughly appreciative. 

The talent of the group is undeniable, and their numerous flips and tricks will keep you clinging on to your programme - which you'll have turned in to a fan - but we've seen this style of theatre done with more flare. Although the technical hitch might have thrown them, there was undeniably a few mishaps during the performances themselves, with dropped juggling balls and at one point a very close shave with an acrobat. As the temperature inside the tent soared presumably so did the sweat on the performers hands, and the show didn't feel as slick or safe as it perhaps should have been.

It's weird and wonderful, and the perfect antidote to escape the sorry state of the current world, but this homoerotic lumberjack circus is probably best served with lashings of Pimms beforehand, and ice. So much ice.

Reviewed by Oliver Dowdeswell

Barbu runs at the Southbank Centre’s Spiegeltent until 25th September 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: David Jensen 

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