CircusFest, Roundhouse, London; 21st April 2016
For their second show, Kin, the Barely Methodical Troupe have expanded their team to six to present a show that explores the strengths and fissures of group dynamics with the same blend of humour, poeticism and humanity that brought such success to their debut Bromance.
Company co-founders Louis Gift, Beren D’Amico and Charlie Wheeller are joined by Jean-Daniel Broussé and Jonathan Bendtsen as numbered candidates in a set-up somewhere between a dating game, an audition, and a group of scientific test subjects. Like in life, there is competition here, but the rules are never explicit. Nikki Rummer is the incarnation of independence, her poise and control a clear counterpoint to the bumble of men who make up the rest of the cast. Sometimes that gives her strength, at others it threatens loneliness.
One of the inspirations for the show was William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies, which can be seen most noticeably in the opening scene. Rummer looks on, stern and still in trench coat and sunglasses, clipboard in hand, as a sudden intruder to the chaotic world the boys have created for themselves.
There are attempts to claim superiority over this newcomer, manifested as human towers and hierarchical poses, but these are about as affective on Rummer’s commanding presence as a territorial pussycat fluffing up it’s tail. Once she is established as top dog, the next agenda is to try and win her favour.
A microphone is swung in from the ceiling, and Rummer shoots interview questions at the men. We learn about talents they have been practising, their fears, their families. Responses are endearing and sometimes hilarious, and evolve into demonstrations of skill that pop in and out of the fabric of the work. Wheeler has been strengthening his neck muscles, and he ropes in Gift to demonstrate his head-to-head stand; Bendtsen grew up with two sheep, one of whom met a sticky end; D’Amico still loves to dance, and Broussé plays the accordion.
The ensemble appear completely unselfconscious on stage. This is sometimes refreshing in the way it reveals character, but sometimes among the men text delivery seems so lackadaisical that it causes the energy of the show to dissipate.
Kin has been directed by choreographer Ben Duke in a way that indicates how the physical training of each member of the company is intrinsically linked within their overall identity. A highlight is seeing a wooden plank used to form a ramp that assists in the unusual construction of a three high tower, with each party walking into place on top of the shoulders of the one below. Again we see a plank used for a teeterboard sequence, which I feel less comfortable watching than the team seem to be in attempting, with Bendtsen clearly more accomplished in this discipline than the rest of the troupe. Trips and stumbles go unacknowledged by the characters onstage, which seems out of keeping with the personae we’ve seen throughout.
The original circus specialities of the performers are in Cyr wheel (Bendtsen & Wheeler) and hand-to-hand (Gift & D’Amico and Broussé & Rummer) but a thread of tricking and breakdance moves is also evident throughout. In Kin, the six show themselves to be multi-skilled performance artists, and I look forward to seeing the show again when it has had a chance to run in a little more.