Roll up! Roll up! Barbu's circus spectacular is in town

Roll up! Roll up! Barbu's circus spectacular is in town

LAST UPDATED // Monday, 06 February 2017 12:57 Written by // Cec Busby

Music, movement, circus and comedy collide in Barbu at the Sydney Opera House.

It was after watching a performance by the National Circus School that performer Antoine Carabinier Lépine first became smitten with the circus.

“My parents took us to see the National Circus School end of year show and I just felt in love with circus,” he tells SX.

“Watching all those people jumping around” he says ignited his passion and by the time he was 15 Antoine had his heart set on a career in the biz. By 2000 he too was a graduate of the National Circus School and by 2005 had launched Cirque Alfonse – the company responsible for the inspired madness that is Barbu.

Describing Cirque Alfonse as a family circus that celebrates traditional elements of Montreal and Quebec, Antoine say the company keeps one eye on the future and another on the past. Cirque Alfonse’s first show, Timber, explored the lumberjack and forestry industry of the area. Their latest offering, Barbu (French for beard), focuses on the traditions and history of circus whilst still maintaining a relevancy for a modern audience by serving up a mix of performance art and circus skills that sees gender lines blur and camp culture celebrated.

The show has already wowed audiences all around the globe who have marvelled at the physical derring-do of the performers and the cheeky irreverence of Barbu. While circus and burlesque rides a wave of popularity, Barbu is like a southerly buster on a scorching Sydney day, shocking you with its boldness. It’s been described as daft, absurd and sexy as hell and celebrates the strength and beauty of the human body whilst simultaneously taking a cut-throat to its stereotypes.

Antoine attributes the show’s success to people’s need to reconnect.
“I think people are a bit tired of the internet and all the things that you see on a screen. People need some real entertainment and circus and burlesque can be entertainment with few words and they touch everybody, every culture,” he explains.  “Also the danger in circus and the thrill is always fascinating for the audience.”

Asked to describe the madcap mayhem that is Barbu he suggests the show is like a “big circus rave”.

“There is big circus skills, big boys, great live musicians that are playing traditional Québec music mixed with electro and video projection as well.”

He says the show evolved from a lot of parties and crazy ideas and took three months to develop.

“We’ve known each other for a long time so it was really fun to take time in the creative process.”

The result is a production that offers up fairground spectacle, fabulous feats and eccentric characters with unique talents. He tells SX he hopes the audience will come away with a feeling that “everything is possible”.

“There are still so many ways to have fun. You should come along to have the best night at the Opera House with the crazy French Canadian bearded circus!”

Barbu plays at The Studio, Sydney Opera House from February 8-March 4. Go to


Cec Busby

Cec Busby

Cec Busby is the news editor of SX and online editor of

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