On the stage of the suitably impressive Bonython Hall, a collection of acrobats and musicians sit around in white shirts and bowling shoes, crocheting amongst knick-knack clutter. It’s a strange but appropriate beginning to a wonderfully weird and impressive show that is as much about showcasing oddities of Quebecois culture as it is about circus. But soon the curios are pushed aside and the real fun begins: the band strikes up, roller skates are strapped on, and the six acrobats begin.
From here, it’s a strange and wild ride through all kinds of circus favourites presented with a very Cirque Alfonse twist. There’s whip cracking and human pyramids, aerials, and balance poles. Each routine is executed with impressive choreography. Symmetry and formations bring structure to the chaos, and remind us of the village church and Quebecois folk traditions of the show’s origins.
Behind it all is the three part band, occasionally joined by one of the acrobats (who often seamlessly join in and take over from each other). The music is the beating heart of the show and with a mix of guitar, fiddle, percussion, keys and sometimes haunting vocals, they bring cohesiveness to what can sometimes seem like an odd collection of routines.
But it’s the unexpectedness that makes the show so fun. Where else can you see bearded men twirl in a crotched dress for minutes at a time and feel truly moved by it? Cirque Alfonse takes the sacred and profane to highly original and entertaining heights, and this is a ritual you won’t want to miss. If you’re familiar with their previous show, Barbu, you’ll love Tabarnak. It’s wonderfully strange, hugely entertaining, and uniquely beautiful.