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BARBU: An interview with Antoine Carabinier Lépine
Image Credit: Antoine Carabinier Lepine in BARBU by Cirque Alfonse in the Spiegeltent. Credit David Jensen

BARBU: An interview with Antoine Carabinier Lépine

2 August 2016 Tom Faber

Canada’s Cirque Alfonse has been delighting international audiences with BARBU, their daring new circus show. The performance combines elements of traditional theatre, live music, comedy and breathtaking acrobatics. And did we mention the beards? We sat down with Cirque Alfonse founder Antoine Carabinier Lépine to learn about what goes into such an explosive show.

London Calling: Barbu relates back to Montreal’s circus history. Can you tell me about the link?
 
Antoine Carabinier Lépine: There were a lot of fairs in Montreal at the beginning of the century. We wanted to reference that in the show by using more traditional circus skills, done by a big guy with strong features. The beginning of the show is more traditional and then the second part gets totally crazy.
 
LC: And you’re accompanied by a live band?
 
ACL: We have three live musicians with us who compose all the music for the show. It’s a mix of electronic and traditional folk music from Quebec so it’s really full-on. It creates a great atmosphere in the big top. It feels like a rave.
 
LC: Is there much audience participation?
 
ACL: Yes, we have a magician who does comedy mentalism with the audience. Everyone’s really close to us, cabaret style, so they can feel our sweat.
 
LC: Is the whole show a balance of comedy and physical performance?
 
ACL: It’s a mix of everything. We have a live band, video projection and the physical acrobatics. It’s a night for the audience to forget about work and just go crazy.
 
LC: What’s the best reaction you’ve heard from someone after the show?
 
ACL: Everyone enjoys it and they don’t expect it from us. We look like normal people. We’re not slim and fit like acrobatics. We’re big, bearded men. People don’t expect us to do somersaults so they’re really impressed by that.
 
Cirque Alfonse in BARBU at the Spiegeltent Credit David Jensen
 
LC: When you get together for a new show, how do you create new material?
 
ACL: We travel so much that we see a lot of shows and different cultures. We try to grab aspects of those and keep them in mind so when we start new projects everybody participates, then our director puts all the pieces together at the end. We can experiment while we’re touring because we’re always together, a family.
 
LC: Does performing circus change your relationship with your body?
 
ACL: It’s pretty physical and I’ve been doing it for almost twenty years. It’s painful and of course your body changes. We always have little injuries. One teacher at school said to us that if you wake up in the morning and you feel no pain anywhere, it’s because you’re dead. You get used to working with pain.
 
LC: If you’re doing a circus performance where you do things like acrobatics with people and human pyramids, you put your body very close to other people. We live in a world where we don’t get close to each other very often.
 
ACL: It’s true. We need to have a really good connection with each other. We need to have confidence in each other to know what we’re doing. It comes over time. We try to keep the group just between close friends, which is why we don’t hire people we don’t know.
 
LC: What do you love doing when you’re here in London?
 
ACL: We live in Camden now and we all bought bikes, so we travel all over the city by bike. Now we’re discovering new places and it’s a really fun way to get around the city. Although it’s quite dangerous!
 
LC: You’re not used to danger by now?
 
ACL: Oh yes, we love it!
 
Barbu is at London Wonderground until 25th September. For dates and to book tickets, see their website.

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