KIN

Sat 5th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Katherine Knight

at 11:29 on 10th Aug 2017

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For most, a circus will bring to mind a very specific image – a big top, a clown, a trapeze. With these traditional elements lacking, it may be a shock to hear Barely Methodical Troupe describe themselves as a circus act, but there is one further key element brought to mind here: spectacle. The troupe’s performance is lauded with applause from the audience – spontaneous, for the most part - with the exception of one scene voiced over with a tv laugh-track. There are set pieces, for sure, usually in a section signalled by a radio hit. However, the causal manner in which extraordinary movement is incorporated is particularly impressive; whether it be across the floorspace, or elements of rough-play and one-upmanship which fast become a motif of the performance. This activity even incorporates carefully controlled failings – a diablo act near the start comes to mind – which appear spontaneous, although they have clearly been worked into the choreography. These are executed well, and add to the personality which the performers convey as a whole – a troupe largely juvenile, sometimes intimate; by turns stone still and energetic. It would have been easy for the performers to have given a purely acrobatic performance, but the use of facial expression, bodily language, and even snippets of speech – naturalistic and stylised – add interest, creating a sense of characterisation. This is not circus acrobatics as we, the audience, have been accustomed to.

Amongst all these set-pieces and movement it can be difficult to understand the plot. This is particularly an issue when distinguishing the five male characters – although labelled and called upon by a number on their tracksuits – who are overseen by a rather stern-looking lady. It is clear the aim is to impress her as each is continually aiming to outdo the other. Why is somewhat unclear – some sort of dystopian Tinder is the first impression. Symbolism is present, and though sometimes nonsensical, it contributes to the atmosphere. An atmosphere which is, by turns, humorous, energetic, and touching.

But it is in this striving for intimacy on the part of each character where the true audience connection lies. Each numbered figure is performing, incessantly, for the lone woman, and by seeking to catch her attention and outdo one another they simultaneously compete for the attentions of the audience. A hoop-act, a seesaw, an intimate dance are not just a mating ritual, but a self-conscious performance. Each time one outperforms the other – with acts that are spectacular, incredible feats of strength and control – the audience broke into applause, replete even with whistling and, towards the end, whooping. When the audience stood up for applause at its close, it is clear that the spectacle has won round its judges.

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Darcy Rollins

at 13:01 on 10th Aug 2017

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The Barely Methodical Troupe are often called the ‘Bromance Boys’. While affectionate teamwork still plays a part in ‘KIN’, it is clear that the troupe are trying something a little different too. ‘KIN’ is set in a group operating on their own rules as the male performers rush to impress Nikki Rummer as she calls on each of them to step into the realm of scrutiny and impressive acrobatics.

The contrast between the unflinching gaze of the woman and the earnest boyishness of the troupe is a comedic trope that runs throughout the performance to great effect, judging by the bursts of audience laughter. This is a troupe with personality and camaraderie as opposed to slick but robotic acrobatics. This is not to say that technical skill flags for even a moment. In fact, stylistically, the scrambling and slight uncertainty is an effective set-up. The feats are made even more impressive as we are, slightly, hoodwinked into seeing the troupe as ‘normal people’ with their chattering who then go on to somersault and stick a perfect landing. In the first feat we see they seem to struggle to know what to do, before climbing on top of each other and freezing in a high human tower. Outside of technical considerations, this technique simply makes them more likeable than they would be otherwise. As they bump into each other, mock each other and laugh, you can almost feel the affection of the audience grow.

The performance does have emotional resonance when it slows down. For reasons I can’t explain, the sight of a troupe member spinning round in a hoop did move me, and when Rummer soars through the air and is caught it is equally moving. Perhaps it is something about the inherent vulnerability of a troupe putting themselves in positions that pose danger. Rummer is captivating in her talent. In what is evidently a deliberate choice, her movements have none of the intentional roughness that began the boys’ movements. She moves precisely, swiftly and fluidly.

The performance has a great deal of variety, which is integral to its success. The energy ebbs and flows, which assists in giving the more dramatic moments impact. The drama of a single spotlight is undeniable and this, along with astute music choices, heightens the impact of certain moments. From scrambling to soaring, the audience was impressed, entertained and a little moved.

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