23 May 2016

Behind the scenes with Louis Gift from Barely Methodical Troupe

Circus skills and acrobatics combine in BMT’s new show Kin, performing at Hull Truck Theatre this month.

Gravity-defying stunts are all in a day’s work for Louis Gift – co-founder of Barely Methodical Troupe.

The group burst onto the scene in 2014 with Bromance, exploring the complexity of male relationships using movement, acrobatics and tricks. After meeting at the National Centre for Circus Arts, BMT’s three founder members have forged a style that merges circus skills with dance, acrobatics and breakdancing, creating high-energy, high-impact shows.

Two years on from Bromance, and their energy is just as relentless. The three founders are back on the road (next stop: Hull) with a brand new show for 2016 – Kin. Having added a few more performers to their ranks, their latest show investigates the nature of group dynamics, with Louis jostling for attention with a whole host of new performers.

Kin is heading to Hull Truck Theatre from the 26-28 May, which is something of a homecoming for Louis. Born in Hull (and son of Fine Young Cannibals frontman Roland Gift), Louis now spends much of his time out on the road performing. We grabbed a few minutes with him to chat about Kin before he heads back up to Hull.

Who are Barely Methodical Troupe, and what do you do?

Barely Methodical Troupe is an experimental acrobatic company. We fuse circus acrobatics, dance and theatre to make shows that not only have the classic death defying stunts, but also have a narrative which allows us to connect with the audience on an emotional level.

Your first show Bromance was a huge success. What can we expect from your new show Kin?

Bromance was only three of us (Charlie, Beren, and myself), and in Kin we’ve expanded our cast to six. This means we’re not only able to do a lot more tricks, but much bigger, scarier, and more spectacular ones; lots of big throws and catches, lots of somersaults, lots of human towers! You can expect much more of an “edge of your seat” vibe from this show.

When you’re devising new work like Kin, where do you start?

We usually start with a small idea or theme, nothing too definite, to base our moves around. Tricks are a big thing for us. We like to keep pushing our skills as acrobats so a lot of the tricks you’ll see in Kin have been developed especially for this show. One of the hardest things to do is to contextualise the tricks within the narrative, otherwise it just becomes an exhibition of skill. This means that a lot of time is spent on working out how we can get into a trick without it looking too set up, or breaking the narrative.

You can expect much more of an “edge of your seat” vibe from this show.

Who are your biggest influences?

One of our biggest influences in terms of style are a French group called La Meute (The Wolf Pack). They are a group of six guys with crazy skills who manage to intertwine tricks and narrative very successfully. Traces by 7 Fingers was a big influence for us too as it was one of the first contemporary circus shows we saw, and was also the first time we saw a lot of the disciplines we’re very familiar with now.

Your shows mix traditional circus skills and acrobatics with relatively new techniques, like the Cyr wheel. What’s your favourite skill to perform?

My favourite thing to perform is hand-to-hand acrobatics. This is the discipline that Beren and I specialised in while we were on the degree program at the National Centre for Circus Arts. I really enjoy working with someone else and not just by myself. It’s so satisfying, and makes you feel like you are in a two man team while doing it!

It feels like circus is having a resurgence in the UK at the moment. Why do you think that is?

Circus is definitely having a resurgence. I think it’s partly down to the popularity of new extreme sports such as free running and breakdancing, and also things like the daredevil show Nitro Circus. People are really up for high energy performance these days. The cabaret scene has risen hugely in the last few years too, which generally involves a fair bit of circus. These are all really good ways for circus to reach much wider audiences, and show that it’s evolved from the days when going to the circus meant big tops and elephants.

You have a strong family link to Hull. What does it mean to you to bring your work here, in the run-up to 2017?

My dad and his family grew up here, two of my aunties still live here, and I was actually born here! It means a lot to be able to perform at Hull Truck Theatre because my dad used to go there when he was younger. He played Romeo in a production of Romeo and Juliet, which he fondly reminisces about on many occasions, so it’s really nice for me to be able to go and perform our show in Hull too.

Find out more about Kin and how to get tickets on the Hull Truck Theatre website. Performances are at 7.30pm, Thursday 26 – Saturday 28 May.

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