High-flying, haywire ‘animals’ take Vernon stage

Cirque Alfonse production plays out at Performing Arts Centre

Calves, cows, pigs and chickens… Cirque Alfonse’s Animal is an imaginary menagerie with delightful displays of acrobatic prowess and bold theatricality. But no real animals are used in the show.

Part of SPOTLIGHT season’s special presentations series, the Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre (VDPAC) Society presents a bucolic spectacle for young and old alike with Animal: A Farm Story, Thursday, Sept. 29.

Animal is the farm gone haywire! Cirque Alfonse plays out a series of slightly surreal farm fables served up with a touch of irreverence, impressive physical virtuosity and the company’s familiar comic touch. In this re-invented agricultural world, a gentleman farmer has surrounded himself with some familiar but slightly outlandish creatures: the chickens have teeth, the ducks are somewhat menacing, and the cows are always kicking up a fuss. Acrobats transform into singers, dancers, and puppeteers, scaling mast poles and leaping from the mechanical bull – with no nets in sight.

“The action is driven by original live music performed by a French-Canadian folk band,” said VDPAC’s artistic director Erin Kennedy. “It’s an irresistible mixture of banjo, drums and brass the group calls ‘agricultural funk!’

The company, made up of the Carabinier-Lépine family and friends, gets its name from Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez, their hometown in the Quebec’s Lanaudière region. Québec culture is central to each Cirque Alfonse creation as the troupe draws on national folklore for themes, adding unique modern twists. They are known to fashion unusual acrobatic contraptions out of tools and materials found on their real-life family farm – the inspiration at the heart of Animal.

The Cirque Alfonse clan has captured the hearts around the world with their lumberjack-themed show Timber! which performed to a sold-out crowd at the VDPAC in 2016. After having toured the globe several times and experiencing worldwide acclaim, the troupe returns to Vernon on the heels of a highly anticipated and immensely successful run at the Edinburg Fringe Festival where they were named Pick of the Programme (one of the ten shows not-to-be-missed) by New York City’s global theatre news website Broadway World.

“The founding members of Cirque Alfonse have worked with some of the most renowned nouveau cirque companies around the world, but they remain true to themselves as a genuine, multi-generational family circus,” said Kennedy. “You can expect technical mastery paired with warm, authentic charm and infectious humour.”

Tickets are $50 for adults, $47 for seniors, and $45 for students, or save by bundling Animal into a Pick Five or Pick 10 season subscription package. To purchase tickets call 250-549-SHOW (7469) and visit vdpac.ca.

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Cirque Alfonse’ brings Animal: A Farm Story to Vernon Sept. 29. (Contributed)