Fringe Circus

Underbelly’s Circus Hub





Mary Brennan

THERE’S a really genial charm to the way the Barely Methodical Troupe (BMT) go about the brinkmanship business of acrobatics in Shift. The laddish camaraderie that was a hallmark of their first big hit, Bromance, has now extended to include... a girl. A small, eager girl (Esmeralda Nikolajeff) who has the pesky energy of the little sister who wants to join in daring adventures with the big boys - the thing is, she can really match them when it comes to hand-to-hand balances, hi-jinks in, over and somersaulting above a stretchy blue band, or when the cyr wheel spins into view for what is one of the loveliest sequences you’re likely to see in a Fringe circus show.

The main man here is Charlie Wheeller, whose seemingly effortless engagement with the huge metal hoop has a grace and finesse that eclipses ‘tricks’ - and when the others, Louis Gift, Elihu Vazquez and Nikolajeff, become involved in the routine, it’s teamwork, trust and consummate timing in motion.

If BMT’s Shift has a minimalist approach to props other than their own bodies, the French Canadian company Cirque Alfonse - creators of Fringe sensation Barbu in 2015 - prefer to go to the max. They bring a church-like setting on-stage, make slyly humorous use of a stained glass window, whirling thuribles and other religious objects in their acrobatic escapades while the live band switches anthemic sides between the angels and the devil. It’s full-on, it’s raucous, but beneath the irreverent mayhem there are some seriously accomplished acrobatic routines. Whether they’re on speeding roller-skates, building towers on one another’s shoulders, poised in angelic flight atop a Chinese Pole or taking gymnastic doublework to aerial heights, the Cirque Alfonse family make Tabarnak a veritable feast in celebration of Julian the Hospitaller, the patron saint of circus performers.