Kin: Barely Methodical Troupe, London International Mime Festival – Peacock Theatre

creators: Ben Duke and the Company

Director: Ben Duke

Now into its third week, the London International Mime Festival really gets off the ground with the high flying Barely Methodical Troupe whose 2016 show Chin arrives for a brief run at the Peacock Theater where the tall stage ceiling certainly comes in handy in an hour of remarkable tricks and stunts. But while other circus shows often struggle to join the dots, Barely Methodical, directed by Ben Duke, manages to seamlessly combine narrative purpose, character development and acrobatic skill.

The story takes place in some kind of facility, a Kafka-esque emptiness where gray bureaucracy processes a ‘final five’, this small group of performers who need to impress the unnamed adjudicator. Scoring each round on a clipboard, across the show the boundary between the subjugated contestants and their judge begins to blur marked by a number of emotional shifts that change the power dynamic.

Known only by numbers, the prisoners or contestants may be fighting for more than the banana one of them receivers for doing well. The company builds tension with discussion of a mysterious ‘Him’ who may or may not arrive as well as hinting about the murky fate of discharged members. There are touches of theater and mime company Gecko’s work in the story construction, and it is a concept that could be even further enhanced to create greater uncertainty about where the winner is heading and what will happen to everyone else.

Tonally there are so many things that you would never expect to see in an acrobatic show using varied musical choices that range from live drumming to solo piano, dance, Edith Piaf and David Bowie which give the gymnastics an emotional resonance as characters develop relationships with one another. It also reflects on sensitivities and memories that add vulnerability to the performances while never losing sight of the clownish humor that elevates the overall experience.

The large hoop work is particularly spectacular involving a long sequence with Fiona Thornhill in solo performance stepping inside to control impressive changes of rhythm and space, moving the hoop in wide circles around the stage as well as changing its horizontal alignment to create dizzying low spins. In a later section, Thornhill works with Ronan Jenkinson controlling the hoop together, fighting each other for control while using it to create stretches and lunges before eventually uniting inside the spinning frame.

There is a surprising amount of head work, which is again fairly unusual in a show like this, with performers creating height by standing not on shoulders but balancing on the tops of heads. At one point, the controller (Nikki Rummer) uses two of her charges like stilts, walking on their heads as they move in sync beneath her feet while later the old comic strip trick of two kids inside a long coat is taken to extremes as three performers create a human tower concealed by a long black cloak moving carefully around the stage.

It concludes by testing the Peacock Theatre’s ceiling height with a fantastic see-saw number in which all the performers including Luke Chadwick-Jones, Jean-Daniel BroussĂ©, Louis Gift rapidly changing place as they perform multiple mid-air somersaults, twists and backflips that becomes an intensive exercise in coordination and precision. A clever show that brings valuable storytelling and context, Kin: Barely Methodical Troupe helps the London International Mime Festival reach new heights.

Runs until January 29, 2022

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