Afrique en Cirque is transportive circus, music and dance at Adelaide Fringe

Afrique en Cirque
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Quebec’s Kalabanté Productions presented Afrique en Cirque to a nearly 700 full crowd in the big top at Gluttony on Sunday afternoon. Inspired by daily life in Guinea, the show starts with men rowing a boat onto the stage and casting out a fishing net. Later, we see market sellers selling their wares to tourists – us – we hear “buy one get one free” or “only 1 million”.

Afrique en Cirque

Yamoussa Bangoura is the founder of Kalabanté Productions and plays an instrumental (pun intended) role in Afrique en Cirque (on the kora, a stringed instrument found throughout West Africa, which has 21 strings played by plucking. It’s somewhere between a lute and a harp). At various points in Afrique en Cirque, Bangoura also sings, and when he does it is enchanting and transportive. At the very least we feel like we’re transported to WOMADelaide, at best to Guinea, Africa itself.


Afrique en Cirque is a mixture of circus acrobatics and very high energy drumming and dance, with lots of wonderful colourful costumes. The performers’ joy is palpable and contagious. There are lots of flips and somersaults through the air. They move easily from headstands to back flips and vertiginous flights through the air.


A female performer stands with her feet on a male performer’s head. Amazingly, he goes from standing to sitting and back to standing all with her on her head. An especially impressive series of somersaults in the air was performed from one side of the stage to the other, somersaulting right onto the shoulders of the performer standing on the other side.


There is also a lot of comedy throughout the show – a woman showing off her pecs to the audience and a man who then outdoes her with his rippling arms. Male performers dance cheekily, swaying their hips and thrusting their derriere. A juggler is encouraged to juggle more and more clubs, even though he is dropping the ones he already has an unsteady hold of; the other performers encourage the audience to call out the numbers in Susu: náání for 4 and súlí for 5.

Yamoussa Bangoura on the kora in Cirque en Afrique at Adelaide Fringe 2024
Yamoussa Bangoura on the kora in Cirque en Afrique at Adelaide Fringe 2024

All of the performers get involved in the music, whether it be the very loud, very large drums played from both ends simultaneously  – they’re laid horizontally in wooden frames, and women shaking the shekere, an instrument that sounds similar to a maraca which is a gourd with beads woven into a net which covers it.


We come back to the fishing boat and nets and this time the tent is in near darkness as the performers fish, casting their rods to and fro over the audience with their hooks replaced by lights. The scene is very atmospheric, enhanced by the sound of cicadas. They then untangle the fishing net to discover they have caught a massive fish but this is no ordinary fish and it scares them off stage. This creature is a performer who can contort himself in ways that you wouldn’t think possible. He draws lots of giggles from the younger members of the crowd and the occasional off-put sounds from the adults, who knew the body shouldn’t be able to put itself in such positions.


With the show starting and coming back to a fishing village, it felt like perhaps this was the end of the show and that what followed were the individual acts for applause. Instead, the show ramped up with lots of high energy acrobatics and enthusiastic dance. That made it feel a little disjointed and like we could have seen these acts spread more evenly throughout the 60 minute show. This is such a small point and it certainly didn’t detract from what is a wonderful show.


Afrique en Cirque is a feast for the eyes and ears and will transport you from the heart of Adelaide to a seaside village in Guinea. From African instruments to impressive acrobatic and contortionist feats, you will leave the show uplifted and impressed.



Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Fringe


Afrique en Cirque has now concluded its Adelaide Fringe season.


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