BARBU: a surreal, erotic circus at London’s Southbank Centre

We visited the Southbank Centre on a warm summer evening to watch a show which sent us into a state of delirium. Approaching a circus tent pitched in the midst of the London Wonderground, we were apprehensive of the unknown; a feeling of nervous expectation permeating the air.

We were there to experience BARBU, presented by the Canadian Circus company Cirque Alfonse, (previously known for the lumberjack circus sensation Timber! if you’re now any the wiser). BARBU had been hailed by critics as a naughty, witty, cabaret of old school circus, with a hairy outrageous twist.

The audience packed into the Paradiso Spiegelten, as the show kicked off to a live electro-folk band who were accompanying a multitude of hairy bearded acrobatics, flying around the stage on roller skates at a seemingly dangerous speed. And this was only the beginning…

Circus freak melded with hipster chic, as somersaulting men lingered in the air along with an intoxicating whiff of weirdness. The roots of the show seemed to stem from a few different places: classical circus, a twist on vintage, casual nakedness and fashion consciousness simultaneously. As the performance tore on, the protagonists became progressively more mysterious – from an elusive lady performing on a giant ring which was being tossed and flipped around the tent, to a random balancing act of golf clubs. A disappearing act followed, which perplexed the audience; perhaps even more so when a hamster delivered a smaller-than-life side performance. This show was anything but cohesive, but it managed to make a mixed bag of danger, seediness, sex, surrealism and hilarity into a new freaky being, which was somehow enjoyable. Imagine a traditional circus, with themes of classic ‘mentalist’ traditions turned completely on their head.

This is a must see extravaganza of acute theatrical erotica. This review may read like a paragraph of prose written during a jolly acid trip, and we can only imagine that’s what the creators were emulating, or experiencing. It was enthralling, to say the least.

Head over to the to book your ticket. The performance is currently running until the 25th September: and we’ve got to go again. 


Words by Chloe Quibell 

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