Beckett with a drop of Python, but make it a circus

Homegrown productions are in the spotlight at this year’s edition of the London International Mime Festival, and so is this knowing but gnomic entertainment from Barely Methodical Troupe.



London, United Kingdom.  January 26, 2022. Performers from circus troupe Barely Methodical Troupe perform daring physical acrobatic feats of their new show KIN at Lincoln Inn Fields.  Originally premiered in 2016, KIN combines the acrobatics of circus with the emotional


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London, United Kingdom. January 26, 2022. Performers from circus troupe Barely Methodical Troupe perform daring physical acrobatic feats of their new show KIN at Lincoln Inn Fields. Originally premiered in 2016, KIN combines the acrobatics of circus with the emotional

Founded in 2013 by three talented young fellows from the National Center for Circus Arts, the company has since established itself as a leading exponent of a British contemporary circus theater that can be both experimental and popular. For them, and for others of their generation, traditional circus attributes such as trained animals and glittering large-scale spectacle are unnecessary and even undesirable. Instead, they tend to offer scripted text (confidently delivered), a bit of characterization (often derived from performers playing out aspects of their own personality or history) and, crucially, ideas that are usually conveyed with a healthy dose of humor. . As for physical virtuosity, it’s an absolute must.

All these elements are present in KIN, a show first seen in London in 2016 at the Roundhouse. The premise is intriguing: five lithe people, each labeled with a random ostensible number, are stationed in an empty open space by an unpredictably autocratic woman (Nikki Rummer) at a desk equipped with red telephones and a cancellation buzzer. Is this an inspection, a competition or maybe an audition? The answer is never clear. And is she really in charge? That too remains unclear.

However, the performers are so captivating and adept that all the conceptual teasing around the themes of control, loss, and sexual politics is more fun than frustrating. What director Ben Duke (co-founder of the award-winning dance theater company Lost Dog) and his cast serve here is a juicy slice of existentialist jokes, laced with absurdist laughter and an at times dazzling kinetic audacity. Think of Beckett giving a few drops of Monty Python and then being generously topped up with seemingly effortless, top-notch circus skills usually set to a selectively deployed retro-pop soundtrack.

It’s no surprise, especially given the show’s admirably light-hearted dramatic context, that for a short period of time a banana becomes the main, Pavlovian reward of the five competitors. But aside from this and other examples of funny tickling, there’s also plenty in the performance to satisfy thrill-seekers: acrobatic flips and spins, heavily armed balances and sudden drops, as well as a fairly liberal use of heads as springboards. But the physical climax comes early thanks to an amazingly varied and compelling routine on Fiona Thornhill’s Cyr wheel. She and Rummer are the only female performers in the cast. Interestingly, both radiate more power, individually or together, than their male counterparts.

Peacock Theater, through Saturday. The London International Mime Festival runs until February, mimelondon.com

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