Select Page

BARBU: Again! Again!

by | Jun 14, 2024 | Review | 3 comments

So sexy. So much fun. For a good time, call Barbu at 604-251-1363. That’s The Cultch’s box office number.

Created by Montreal’s Cirque Alfonse, which is a family-and-friends operation, Barbu sets out to recreate the feel of the circuses that toured Québec at the turn of the twentieth century. Worked for me. I’m 71 and I was as entranced as an eight-year-old who’d never seen anything like this before.

Part of what makes this performance so exciting is the intimacy of the space. There are seven acrobats in the company and a three-person band. That’s a lot for the Historic Theatre’s stage, especially when the acrobats are whizzing around on rollerskates, spinning on giant hoops, tossing beer kegs, and standing on one another’s shoulders three people into the air. I was in the front row and I was moving my feet out of the way — because I had to —and seriously considering what I’d do if anybody landed on me. But that was such a big part of the fun, and I never really felt in danger.

A major bonus of seeing a circus in such an intimate venue is that the human accomplishment of it all becomes so much more apparent. You can see the muscular strain, the shakiness, the concentration. And, when you’re on floor level and looking up at one of those three-person totems, or even if you’re in the balcony, you have a different kind of appreciation of the height — and skill — involved.

There’s a crazy kind of eccentricity about the whole thing, too. Laura Lippert does a number, for instance, in which she enters with the sangfroid of a Mata Hari, her long braids twisted into a regal topknot, which, it turns out, conceals a hook that she attaches to a cable so she can spin through the air doing acrobatics.

There’s a sexy playfulness about the whole thing, which — bonus! — is a liberation from stereotypical gender roles. The women are strong and self-sufficient. The men are confident, even cocky, but more than willing to be appreciated as erotic objects, when they stroll through the audience in their black underpants and sock garters, for instance. (The costumes are by Lucien Bernèche.)

Video designer Frederic Barrette backs up a number, in which a couple of the guys shoot ping pong balls into each other’s mouths, with video in which one man seems to be shooting a geyser of water from his mouth onto another fella’s face. Yes! Fluids!

At other points, Barrette’s video design evokes the natural world, often using wildflowers — daisies, lupins — which grounds the piece in an earthy loveliness. And the three-person band keeps things pumping.

Barbu runs about 75 minutes without an intermission. Watching it was so intense for me that I was ready for it to end after a climactic number that came maybe eight minutes before the company took its bows. But that’s not really a complaint, unless you regard it as a complaint when an excellent lover kisses you a bit too long.

BARBU Directed by Alain Francoeur. On Thursday, June 13. A Cirque Alfonse production presented by The Cultch, running in The Cultch’s Historic Theatre until June 23. Tickets and info

PHOTO CREDIT: (Photo by Frederic Barrette)


  1. patti hirschberg

    Wow…. great, juicy review. Gotta see this. “Eccentric”, “sexy”? = must see, especially for the “fun”. Much respect to
    Laura for the hair-acrobatics! 75 intense minutes long!? Crazy! Can’t wait. Thank you!

  2. Greg Weir

    Thanks for the tip! I was exhausted just sitting in the front as an audience member. The sight of one performer’s hernia scar 2 feet from my seat helped me feel their strain. What a great experience!

    • Colin Thomas

      Yes, that’s quite the hernia scar. 🙂


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Freshsheet Reviews logo reversed

Subscribe Free!

Sign up for the FRESH SHEET newsletter and get curated local, national, and international arts coverage — all sorts of arts — every week.


Drop a line to


FRESH SHEET, the reviews and FRESH SHEET, the newsletter are available free. But writing them is a full-time job and arts criticism is in peril. Please support FRESH SHEET by sending an e-transfer to or by becoming a patron on Patreon.

Copyright ©2024 Colin Thomas. All rights reserved.