Barbaroi | AfterDark TheatreLeft – (Foot juggling) Hazel Bock. Cover – (Straps) Stan Ricketson. Photos – Chris Trawn

Barbaroi is, apparently, an old Roman word meaning barbarian. Someone who is coarse, unrefined, uncivilsed. Certainly this circus is devoid of traditional circus frills... no men in tights here. It's also devoid of other circus paraphernalia such us safety harnesses and safety nets, which was cause for the audience to move forward in its seat and clench its buttocks on more than one occasion.

A quick search has revealed little about who these particular Barbaroi are (no dialogue was spoken so we can't even hazard a guess at their nationalities – perhaps a mix of local and overseas performers?), so I'll just tell you a little about what they do. It's basically just showing off, but in the best possible ways.

There was a guy who did ridiculous things on a single piece of rope dangling from the ceiling, as well as another guy doing equally ridiculous things with two straps dangling from the ceiling. As someone who has been known to tie his shoelaces in knots late at night, I have no idea how someone can wrap straps around their forearms and manage to somersault themselves up to the ceiling. Once up there, most sensible people would be screaming for someone to get them down from there. But this guy – this guy hung about for a bit before kind of unsomersaulting gracefully back down.

There were a couple of strapping guys who threw an incredibly flexible and trusting performer between them and swung her sometimes like a human skipping rope. At times she seemed frozen for a moment in mid air – above that unforgiving hard floor – only to be caught and flung again with astonishing precision. The team work was insanely good.

As was the... erm... lets call her an Upside Down Foot Juggler. She sashayed onto the stage with a knowing air about her, oozing the kind of confidence must of us have when it comes to brushing our teeth. Only this woman – this woman – lay upside down on a purpose built bench, warmed up by juggling balls with her feet, then did a whole lot more showing off by doing seemingly impossible things with a wooden table. She flipped it, spun it and twirled it, her feet working with a furious dexterity, like little creatures with minds of their own. Later she performed a similar routine with a stack of suitcases. As someone who has brutally kicked the life out of a broken suitcase on the streets of Paris, I was quietly stunned with the clever and delicate things she was doing with her feet and some luggage. I don't doubt those toes would be capable of manipulating the combination locks. Amazing.

As was the guy who looked like one of the leads from television series Vikings. What this guy did with a huge blue hoop... lets just say you're probably never going to see such a mesmerisingly beautiful routine performed by a Viking and his big blue hoop. It was graceful and lovely and I didn't want him to stop.

I did want the juggler to stop. He was having a bad night, but to be fair, he was doing some crazy-clever juggling. That he also moved with the grace of a trained dancer and did a great job later on a single pole more than made up for a couple of dropped balls. Multi-talented show off.

I recently saw a still photo of a dancer walking along a row of upright glass bottles. Apparently it was a famous routine in some bygone era. The cynic in me, which is basically me, assumed the shot was somehow staged because how in the hell can anyone walk across a row of standing bottles? It just not humanly possible... and there before my eyes there was someone actually doing it. Co-performers slid bottles across the floor to form a path of stepping stone bottles – and she actually stepped from one to the next to another. I could regale you with many stories about bottles and balance and falling over; this is not one of them. And I certainly won't be attempting this at home.

There was a couple who danced and balanced on a tube and a board, with the female performer finishing of by balancing atop an impossibly high and wobbly tower of tubes criss-crossed on top of each other. My palms sweat at the mere memory.

What felt like the show's climax was not actually the last act. It was a springboard piece complete with high jumps into the air, tumbles and twirls and more of that uncanny teamwork and precision. Majestic, thrilling and fun.

The physical performances were complemented perfectly by a varied soundtrack which included some gutsy electro grunge, some Matt Corby indie-alt-folk-rock-pop (or whatever the music boffins call it), as well as a melange of ethnic styles served richly and crisply. It all sounded so good. The recurring theme of flirting/courtship throughout the show was also a fun touch.

I may not know who these Barbaroi were, but I really enjoyed seeing them strut their stuff in this intimate space at The Gasworks. Great night out.


AfterDark Theatre presents
Barbaroi

Director Frank Minniti

Venue: The Big House | Gasworks, 21 Graham St Albert Park VIC
Dates: 22 Sep – 3 Oct, 2015
Tickets: $27 – $20
Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au