Antoine Carabinier-Lépine is the star and founding member of Barbu.
The French-Canadian circus company Cirque Alfonse have brought the “spectacularly raucous and sexy cabaret” show to London Wonderground for a limited run concluding in September.
Starring the world’s most extraordinary, dare-devil acrobats performing with a frenetic electro-trad band, Barbu delves into the origins of the circus in Montreal at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.
I recently spoke to Antoine about bringing Barbu to London, how circus continues to evolve and spending his life on tour….
How does it feel to be in London?
It’s great to be here! We performed at the Southbank Centre with our other show two years ago, so we know what it’s like over here. We came to see Limbo here in the Spiegeltent and after the show we were like ‘wow this is such a nice venue and it’s right in the middle of London so why don’t we do our own show like that’. That’s why we wanted to bring Barbu here.
The front row is literally centimetres from the stage – how does it feel to perform in here?
We love that, we’re all big bearded men and when you’re in the front row it’s really full on. I think the audiences like it.
Barbu is a mix of everything. We have live music with a mix of traditional and electro influences. We do so many different and crazy things on stage. The first part is traditional and the second part is really crazy.
The circus world continues to evolve and change. Circus is no longer something you just take your kids to!
No, exactly. Circus has evolved so much, it’s no longer just clowns with balloons. We’ve tried to evolve in a way that mixes different art together. We have live music and video projection as well as acting and everything else. It’s not just circus anymore. It’s a mix of lots of things.
How long have you been performing and touring the world? Do you ever have the chance to go home?
Almost twenty years now. I’m thirty-four. I started when I was fourteen and went to circus school. I have a little apartment with my girlfriend in Montreal, but we’re away from home almost ten months of the year. It’s a way of living. When we’re home for more than a week I get restless and want to go back on tour. It’s a family business, my dad was in our other show Timbre and my mum followed us on tour. With Barbu my sister is here with my nephews, so it’s home for us.
It’s so great. It’s a bit crazy sometimes, but it’s so nice. Every cast member is part of the family now. We don’t just work together, we live together. At the moment we’re all staying in Camden. It’s a pretty crazy life but amazing at the same time.
Does that family vibe translate in the show? With circus trust is very important!
Oh yes, in circus you have to have trust with who you work with. You can’t have any trust issues or it won’t work. You need that connection and you can’t go into auto mode. We are always in control… kind of [laughs] but always try to push the limits. In Barbu we do some risky things, but we allow things to happen. It’s not Cirque du Soleil where everything is really slick, in Barbu if we mess up we go with it.
Is the show always changing?
Yes, all the time. The structure stays the same but in the act we change things if we think we can do better. Our director was over here with us for two weeks – we always try to evolve to keep making it a better show.
Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
Barbu runs at at London Wonderground (Southbank Centre) until 25th September 2016.
Please visit www.londonwonderground.co.uk for further information and tickets.
Photo Credit 1&3: David Jensen
Photo Credit 2: Frederic Barrette