Cirque Alfonse return to Adelaide Fringe with a new show entitled Animal

Cirque Alfonse Animal
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After a 5 year hiatus, Cirque Alfonse returns to Adelaide Fringe next month, this time with a new show called Animal. Remember the bearded men on roller skates who roamed Adelaide promoting their Fringe show, Barbu, a few years ago? These are the same guys, and this time they’re presenting a show for all ages called Animal. Antoine Carabinier-Lépine, one of the co-founders of Cirque Alfonse, talks to us about their latest show, which will be making its Australian debut in the Garden of Unearthly Delights this February.

Cirque Alfonse Animal

So you’re coming to Australia this time for the show Animal. What inspired this show?

Well, my sister and I grew up with my parents in Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez. It was a farm. When we were younger, my parents had animals, sheep, goats, ducks and all that. So that’s where it all started. We’re often inspired by our environment, our Québécois roots and our life on the farm.


We were inspired a bit by fables and farm stories. But we didn’t keep the idea of real fables, it’s more my father who’s the main character and it’s the animals who are around him and who navigate around him. The animals also take control of the farm.


When I saw the images of the show, I wondered if it was your father in it, who from memory made his circus debut at the age of 60.

Yes, he started at 60 and then we did the TImber! show, which we toured a lot, and then he retired, but he came out of retirement and started doing shows with us. Now he’s 67 and he’s still doing shows with us.


And that’s great. Because Cirque Alfonse was already very much a family troupe.

Cirque Alfonse has always been very much a family affair. My sister, my girlfriend, my brother-in-law, my father. And many other artists are with us; we’ve been working together for a long time, so they’re part of the family.


So they are the same people we saw in the Tabarnak and Barbu shows?

Yes, they’re all the same. It’s almost all the same artists who are with us, so we’re carrying on the tradition to some extent, it’s a bit like a traditional circus if you like, but in reverse.


The Timber! show never came to Adelaide did it?

No, we didn’t come to Adelaide. Timber! is the company’s first show. We never came to the Fringe with Timber! We came with Barbu and Tabarnak, but not with Timber!


We’ve missed you!

We’ve missed you too! It’s good to be able to come along now. Everything’s more open. But it’s becoming more and more complicated to travel internationally for big shows like ours.


How is the show Animal different to your other shows Tabarnak and Barbu?

Animal is a is a show for the general public. Barbu was more for adults. Tabarnak was a church show, so it wasn’t necessarily for everyone. Whereas Animal is really a show for everyone, whether it’s children, adults or grandparents. I think everyone will appreciate the humour we have and all that. So it really is a show for everyone.


So there’s no nudity (like there was in Barbu)?

In this show, there’s no nudity. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a much more vibrant show than Tabarnak, if you like. It’s not a show for the end of the evening, it’s a show for the start of the evening to get you going.


Did you write the show for children?

No, we wrote the show for everyone. It’s true that there is a more childlike quality than our other shows but we wanted it to please parents as muc as children so it’s for children more than our other shows but it really is for the general public.


Are the acts you’ll be doing in the shows different from those in your other shows?

Yes, we have trained to do new circus acts and we have really been inspired by things from the farm, so we jungle with pitchforks, there are mechanical bulls and we will do things on a tractor tyre. It’s really very very different to Barbu and Tabarnak. Even if you have seen Barbu et Tabarnak, this is not the same circus equipment.


Is the equipment already en route to Australia?

The cargo ships have already left for Australia by boat because it’s complicated to find the components (on site). It’s not easy to find a mechanical bull, so everything’s already gone to Australia.


The last time we spoke, you were about to become a dad…

Since then, we’ve had two little girls. We’ve got a little girl who’s 2, Delima, and then Mafalda, she’s 6 now. Now we have 4 children on tour with us. My sister has two boys and we have two girls.


And are the children part of the show?

They make a little appearance at the end of the show. The last time we did Tabarnak we had Mafalda at the end of the show with us. All the children come to do the show to present a little something for the audience.


How many of you are coming to Adelaide?

I think there will be 16 of us. We’re 9 artists in the show, plus two technicians, then the children and my mother.


So your Mum is coming too. 

Yes, because she looks after the children during the show.


That’s an equally important role backstage! For those who don’t know Circus Alfonse, how would you describe your troupe?

I think it’s a circus that reaches out to everyone in the sense that we’re not like Cirque du Soleil if you like. We do things for the public. We’re really multi-disciplinary too, everyone does everything in the show. Everyone stays on stage for the whole show. We do music, circus, dance, singing, so you can be all of them. We’re not acrobats, we’re a bit too old, but I think it’s the sincerity of Cirque Alfonse that makes us stand out a bit, we have our own colour. We do what we like to do. We’re not trying to change who we are. We draw a lot of inspiration from our Quebec tradition.


Music is very important in our shows. We have three live musicians with us, who are the same musicians from Barbu and Tabarnak. And the music we have created for Animal is a mix of traditional Québécois with funk so we called it farm funk!


Given that the show is set on a farm, are you all dressed like farm animals?

We were inspired by animals but we didn’t want to be caricatures of animals so you can’t really see which animal we are. It’s more an inspiration than a real illustration, if you like, so each animal is a bit like a totem, but if you take us away from the show you can’t really know which animal we are exactly.


How did you write the show? What was the process? 

We wrote Animal during the pandemic. We were meant to debut the show but the pandemic arrived so we continued to work on the show during that year. Then we released the show in 2021. So we’ve already done 250 shows on tour. We’ve toured a lot in Europe. We’ve toured a bit everywhere already. We are really happy to be able to come to Australia to present it for the first time. 


Is it just Adelaide you’re coming to while you’re in Australia. Not Perth Fringe World as well?

We wanted to but it was a bit complicated with transport costs. We also wanted to go to Sydney Festival but maybe next year.


Why should people come see Animal

I don’t think it’s the kind of show that’s really done in Australia. The Quebec circus is a bit different from the Australian circus. I think the audience can expect to have a really good time with the music and the acrobatics. The show is authentic. I think that’s why everyone likes coming to see us because it’s a really nice show that’s easy for everyone to enjoy. I don’t think there are many people who don’t like the show in the sense that it’s really for everyone.


You’ve said it’s a bit of a fable of your own. Does it have a message for the public?

We went to see a number of farms when we were first starting out, and then there’s also the side of the smaller ones, which are a bit out of fashion, but the less assembly-line work we want to show that the smallest farm, cultivated locally and all that, is still relevant today. We don’t want to fight the multinationals and all that, but this is a small-scale farm that looks like us and our family.


So you grew up on a farm?

Yes, that’s right. We grew up on a small farm. My parents have a small farm where we live. That’s where we did the creation too, in the barns. Thesedays, my parents don’t have animals any more because we travel too much but when we were little we had animals.


So I know that the show isn’t based on one fable or several. But are there some truly Canadian or Quebecois fables?

Yes, we have a lot of fables that aren’t very well known abroad but we also have a lot of tales from the forest and all that. Farm fables a little less so. But yes, we have a lot of fables that are very Quebecois.


You’ve also said that your circus is very Québécois, and therefore different from Australian circuses. How is the Quebec circus different from Australian circuses?

The Australian circuses came along a bit later. Here, we had Cirque du Soleil before, so the Quebec circus doesn’t really have animals in it. Cirque du Soleil has never worked with animals. Now with animals it’s a bit more complex. We stopped doing shows with animals a long time ago.


The Quebec circus is still very human-centred. We do big acrobatics whereas the Australian circus is less about equipment and more about bodies if you look at Circa, Gravity and Other Myths, that kind of show… There’s not a lot of apparatus if you like. We’re a bit more, not comedic, but it’s a bit less serious, than the Australians who are a bit high class if you like. We stay very down to earth.


So you’re going to make us laugh!

I hope so, yes. 


When you were doing Barbu, you were all out on the streets of Adelaide on rollerblades promoting it. This time, how are we going to see you?

I think we’ll be in costume from the show, we’ll be walking around with my dad and maybe we’ll do a musical parade this time.


Are there rollerblades in this show?

No, there are no skates in this show. Maybe we’ll take the skates anyway so we can get around Adelaide.


Anything else you’d like to share with us? 

We’re really looking forward to being with you in Adelaide, and it’s been a long time. And Adelaide had better be ready because we’re in fine form!

We thank Antoine for this interview and we cannot wait to see Animal at Adelaide Fringe.


WHAT: Animal, a new show from Quebecois circus troupe, Cirque Alfonse

WHEN: nightly from 16 February to 17 March, except Mondays

WHERE: The Garden of Unearthly Delights, ADELAIDE

HOW: Buy your tickets via this link

HOW MUCH: Ticket prices vary according to the day chosen. Preview performances: $49, Tuesday to Thursday: $65, Friday to Sunday: $75. There are discounts for people with a Concession card.


You can also read our interview with Antoine from Cirque Alfonse from 2018 when they were performing Tabarnak at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. And to get an idea of what to expect from Cirque Alfonse – Animal, read our reviews of their other shows Barbu and Tabarnak.


Have you already seen Cirque Alfonse? Are you going to go see Cirque Alfonse – Animal ?

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