Barbu Electro Trad Cabaret

Hailing from Quebec, which I think we can safely call the world capital of circus, Barbu Electro Trad Cabaret electrifies traditional folk feats and music into a high energy spectacle. Four burly bearded dudes, two astoundingly flexible women, one creepy mentalist, and three eclectic electro-trad musicians make up the largely family-based troupe. This is jaw-dropping, belly-laughing fun; a show not to be missed.

Things start out in relatively familiar terrain with acrobatics and juggling, but there’s already a whiff of something different, something totally unique. Perhaps it’s the portly dude in a floral cowboy shirt, or the lumber-sexual vibe that exudes from the vested, hairy men that defy the skinny, lithe physiques that we expect from acrobats. Call me a hipster, but if you put a bow-tied, bearded man on roller-skates, you have my attention. Reminiscent of fairgrounds and back-alley shows, the strong men and freak shows of old school circus, things get progressively stranger in all the best ways. The roller-acro sets the tone, and what follows is a mix of the extraordinary and the eccentric.

Geneviève Gauthier twists and winds herself in a stunningly intricate aerial routine, and Geneviève Morin’s contortionism is breath-gasping. Lucas Jolly is equal parts unnerving and camp as Lukas ze Mentalist, who brings some of the biggest and most unexpected laughs of the show. As for the rest, Matias Salmenaho, Francis Roberge, Jonathan Casaubon, and Antoine Carabinier Lépine, they exude a tongue-in-cheek masculinity, moving deftly from impressive tumbling, balancing and pyramids to cheeky and strangely sexy pole routines. Accompanying them, between two enormous projections of weird videos of bees and beard-plucking, are musicians Josianne Laporte, André Gagné and David Simard, who keep the energy high and the reflect the atmosphere of old-meets-new.

The laughs and gasps get harder as the feats, and their performers, become more daring. Stripped down to black speedos, with the occasional flashes of nudity, the peak of the performance is in how all of these elements — traditional acrobatics, bearded, beer-drinking aesthetics, and cheeky humour — come together. I didn’t want Barbu Electro Trad Cabaret to end, but it did so on an electrifying high. Barbu is the best of what the Fringe should be — weird, breath-taking, eccentric, and wonderful.

★★★★★