Friday, 11 August 2017

EDINBURGH FRINGE REVIEW: KIN at the Underbelly’s Circus Hub


Barely Methodical Troupe’s latest show, KIN, is an engaging, comedic, exhilarating piece of family-friendly circus. Perfectly at home in Underbelly’s largest big top, the tremendously talented cast of six burst onto the stage in an hour of entertainment that flies by.

The concept sees the five men competing in some sort of sinister Olympics-come-Hunger-Games, while a stern, straight faced woman looks on. Their competition takes the form of shows of physical prowess, strip-teases and (bad) trumpet playing. When they are deemed to have done well there is a reward; a banana. They are marked as they go, attempting to charm and impress their judge. 

The judge herself, Nikki Rummer, has some beautiful moments, equally as skilled slinking across the stage in an enthralling acrobatic solo or in physically controlling the group of boys as if reminding them of their place in this particular hierarchy. One of the most memorable sequences involves her riding the heads of the group as if on a wave, or standing atop a horse. The strength and skill on display here is astonishing. 

The risks increase as does the comedic pay off. Charlie Wheeler’s strong performance on the Cyr wheel is hypnotic, and the full cast perform a routine on the teeter board which is as exhilarating as it is terrifying. These are connected by both funny and profound conversations, as well as intense tumbling routines, increasing in animalistic ferocity. Underpinned by smart musical choices, a striking lighting design and exquisitely constructed by director Ben Duke, we begin to see the exploration of group dynamics shifting and pulsating as they vie for position. 

The sexual politics is perhaps a little problematic, as the men are forced to prove how ‘masculine’ they are before Rummer’s unwavering gaze. The superficial narrative is, perhaps, a little simple and certainly not as expertly executed as the physical sequences. That said, there are some nuanced explorations of what it means to be in this group, as the title may suggest, and whether being part of the group is in fact preferable to being the chosen victor. There are some exciting explorations of trust, fear and risk in this piece which never fails to feel spontaneous and alive. 

With a deadpan humour and energetic physical performances, KIN and Barely Methodical stand at the very forefront of the renaissance in British circus. 

Review by James Andrews

Rating: ★★★★
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