Cirque Alfonse- Animal

The  Carabinere-Lepine family and friends hail from Quebec, Canada, and were raised on a small farm, which may explain the theme of their latest circus show, Animal.

It’s a farm unlike any you have seen, with  a barn that is inside out, cheeky chickens, a cow that dances, and performers who at times masquerade as farm workers and at other times as animals, and in between play fantastic music. 

We were ushered into the Roundhouse, almost like school children being organised into the school assembly by a man who used finger signals reminiscent of a doubles tennis player. Once settled, however, we were treated to an evening of hilarious antics. 

To set off the evening the performers, dressed in strange costumes, marched or danced in, some setting themselves up at the musical instruments and others continuing to dance.The music is amazing, with a distinct Quebec flavour. At times it was riotous, rhythmical and robust. At others soulful and reflective. While the songs were sung in French there was no doubting the message.

Performers being acrobatic can become a bit tedious. Never was this case with Cirque Alfonse. Here was always a twist, a story, teamwork and humour. The gentleman farmer came out on his miniature tractor to supervise the workers, which did not stop him climbing a very tall pole which was resting on the shoulders of one man, so he could announce that the circus was open.

Farm implements became props. It was astounding to see how wheelbarrows can be utilised, eggs manipulated, and pitchforks twisted and tossed. The two women were given centre stage, tying themselves into an entwined knot, manoeuvring themselves into poses of elegance and grace as they danced on steel barrels. One could only admire, marvel, and envy their strength and flexibility.

Towards the end there was large cow bell; a very large cowbell, and then two cowbells – cowbells that no cow could ever have worn. They were tossed back and forth between two and then three men. This was a moment of extreme tension! One false move, and concussion would have been the least result. All ended safely.

Possibly the most enjoyable part of the evening was seeing the teamwork and rapport between the performers.At the very end children of the family came on to the stage to share in the applause and to show that they, too, were able to perform. There was a standing ovation and people finally left buzzing in the way an audience does when it has had a really great time

At the Roundhouse, Garden of Unearthly Delights. A Fringe show.

16 February to 17 March

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