EdFringe 2023 Review: Afrique en Cirque ★★★★

Afrique en Cirque is a well-pitched, impeccably performed slice of family-friendly circus that delivers enough awe and wonder to satisfy new audiences and Fringe veterans.”

Kalabante Productions bring Afrique en Cirque to the Assembly Festival. The project is a fusion of circus and gymnastics inspired by the shows’ Yamoussa Bangoura, a multidisciplinary artist. Presenting a mix of contortionism, music, percussion, and acrobatics, that shine as vibrant celebration of African culture.

Afrique en Cirque sees the cast take to the stage at Assembly on the Mound’s Main Hall. It’s a large space, fitting for the six male and two female performers who work on the show. The company utilise both the on-stage space and immerse themselves in the audience for a range of interactive elements including the audience being encourage to clap, chant and sing-back to the performers.

Afrique en Cirque is as much a celebration of African culture as it is circus and acrobatic spectacle. An impressive drumming section opens the show, with the drums more akin to large wooden kegs than those you would associate with pop music. Performers pound these with aplomb, crafting a lively and powerful opening to show. The performers, whilst able gymnasts, showcase a musical finesse – celebrating contemporary sounds of Afro-Jazz, percussion, and kora. Audiences are encouraged to repeat African song-lyrics, growing increasingly challenging as this goes on. Performs integrate themselves within the audience, encouraging mass participation.

The energy remains high through impressive circus routines – routines that look so physically taxing that the displayed ripped physiques of the performers make perfect sense. Human pyramids are formed with what looks like ease, whilst contortionists impressive with their awe-inspiring flexibility (think of a more uplifting version of infamous The Exorcist spider-walk routine). There is a consistently high-level of acrobatics on display through Afrique en Cirque, which shines as a massively polished, slick production.

The audience are quickly invested in one of the performer’s impressive ability to juggle with multiple large juggling pins. The challenge grows in difficulty as the performer escalates in small gradients from three up to six pins. The rest of the cast utilise the comic potential in this, whilst also dropping plenty of small appreciated African cultural touches – including utilising indigenous language in the counting.

Use of the Cyr wheel is impressive, with performers putting their full body within a controlled spinning wheel. It is slickly executed and provides some awe-inspiring family-friendly circus moments.

The skill of the performers is undeniable and the show is performed with an impressive finesse. Afrique en Cirque would have benefited from enhancing the celebration of African culture further. Tying the events in classic myths or stories, might have added further character to the fold and helped the production stand out from traditional Fringe circus spectacles.

Afrique en Cirque is a well-pitched, impeccably performed slice of family-friendly circus that delivers enough awe and wonder to satisfy new audiences and Fringe veterans.

Afrique en Cirque runs until August 28th. Get tickets here.

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