ED2015 Dance & Physical Theatre ED2015 Interviews ED2015 Week2 Edition

Barely Methodical Troupe: Bringing back Bromance

By | Published on Thursday 6 August 2015


The Barely Methodical Troupe won much acclaim with their show ‘Bromance’ at last year’s Festival, and they return to Edinburgh again this August in Underbelly’s new Circus Hub.
I’ve been interested in finding out more about this group ever since we first stumbled across them last summer, and so when the opportunity arose to throw some questions in their general direction, I lined those questions up quickly, setting out to learn more about the show, their techniques, and the company.

CM: For the uninitiated, what can people expect from ‘Bromance’? And what kind of circus techniques do you employ for it?
BMT: ‘Bromance’ looks at the role and limits of male companionship in modern day society using exciting acrobatics and silly humour. We explore the all too familiar “three’s a crowd” situation with masculinity and bravado, juxtaposing the surprising sensitivity which hides in all jocks. The company specialises in hand-to-hand and cyr wheel.

CM: For newcomers to circus, can you explain what those techniques entail…?
BMT: Hand-to-hand simply comprises of a base (big guy) lifting, balancing and throwing the flyer (small guy). As simple as it sounds, it is pretty breathtaking to watch, and demonstrates the very essence of trust. Cyr wheel is a human sized metal wheel used similar to how Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man is seen, creating a very visual kinesphere. The performer stands within it, spinning and twisting in every angle until the audience are too dizzy just watching it!

CM: Is there a narrative to the piece?
BMT: There is certainly a narrative you can follow. Circus has a beautiful way, like dance, of taking you on a thematic journey through movement. ‘Bromance’ is based on the different characters we represent and so the relationships that form are very important to the piece. Who are you in your friendship group? Which role do you fulfill? Are you the joker? The one that’s always there for the rest? Or the slightly pathetic one?

CM: What made you choose the theme of bromance?
BMT: When we were thinking of creating a show we struggled to find what we wanted to “talk about”, so we just broke down our company and analysed the dynamics. After all, we are three guys who have a very interesting and specific friendship, where every day we save each others lives by catching each other. We have a level of physical comfort with each other that’s rarely seen in guys. We thought this could be interesting and potent to explore. Also, it lends itself nicely to some amusing and embarrassing situations that are fun to play on-stage.

CM: Where do you start with putting together a show like this? What’s the creative process?
BMT: We were a mess when we started; three guys who had just graduated circus school trying to put a coherent piece of physical theatre together. It was a case of finding all these specific ideas or scenarios we thought were interesting to develop, and then just locking ourselves in a room, playing some funky music and laughing a lot whilst we try to materialise them into something show-worthy.

Half way through the process we realised we needed a director, so we bought in Eddie Kaye from DV8 to assist and be that outside eye we yearned for. He was great. Due to his dance and theatrical background he had an interesting outlook on our circus tricks, and managed to add lovely details that would have been otherwise overlooked. He matured the show and gave it that structure we needed. We maintain that he is one of the funniest people we will ever meet – and this helps in the rehearsal room too!

CM: This kind of work can be physically risky, can’t it? Does that bother you at all? Or does it add to the exhilaration?
BMT: That’s why we do it, I guess. We’ve trained very hard so that we can “safely” perform all these tricks; showing something else is possible. Audiences certainly appreciate the craziness and when we hear a gasp in the audience we know we’ve done it right. It is dangerous, and there are injuries and mistakes that happen, but circus is a form that people thought had died out, it seems, so we need to take risks and get creative to show audiences that circus is making a big comeback!

CM: What attracted the three of you to the world of circus? Did you always want to do this kind of performance?
BMT: We all have beautifully arty and supportive families so had been brought up witnessing a vast range of performance. Louis was always into his music and parkour. Beren was a tricker – the combination of martial arts and gymnastics – and studied stage combat for a year. Charlie was always into theatre and was a breakdancer too. We were attracted to circus because of the utilisation of our physical skills and the development of the unique performer you rarely find in other art forms.

CM: How would you sell circus to people who think it’s all just clowns and elephants?
BMT: We’d say you’ll be disappointed, because none of us are as exotic and cool as an elephant! Jokes aside, it is really great to be riding the wave of new circus in the UK. There are a lot of young companies creating work that develops people’s perception of this art form. We like to think it is about using the extreme length of what our bodies can do, constantly finding new ways to impress/disgust/amaze people and then weaving in the structure of contemporary dance with some sprinkling of theatricality!

CM: Can you tell us about Barely Methodical Troupe? How did you all meet and what made you decide to set up a company? Do you have any special aims as a company?
BMT: We all met on the degree programme at the National Centre For Circus Arts (then called Circus Space) and instantly clicked as friends. It wasn’t until our final year where we had the opportunity to create a business plan for the last module of our degree that our ambition of making work together actually manifested.

We love bringing cheeky charm to the stage and, regardless of performance, are always challenging each other and the vocabulary, trying to think up a new trick or put a new spin on a pre-existing one. This passion and obsession has been key to the core of the company.

The UK circus scene is going through a period where it’s working out its style in relation to the rest of the world. What does British circus now look like? We hope we can offer something to answer that question and be a part of that exported art.

CM: You had a critically acclaimed run at Edinburgh last year. What was it like for you guys?
BMT: It was the first time we had performed ‘Bromance’, and our premiere was actually the dress rehearsal because we were really pressed for time, which was quite scary. But the whole experience was insane – such a great introduction into the sector for us. It put us in great stead for the busy year ahead.

CM:As you bring the show back to the Festival for a second time, has it changed or evolved since 2014?
BMT: It has changed quite a bit since last Fringe – so much development happens whilst you are continually running the show. You end up trying silly things, or improvising a new addition to the scenes, and you can instantly gauge the reaction of the audience which naturally decides it fate. And we are always training, expanding our skills in our specific disciplines, meaning there are always little additions here and there along the way.

CM: What are you looking forward to about performing the show in Edinburgh this year?
BMT: This year the level of circus at the Fringe has exploded with the introduction of Underbelly’s Circus Hub. We cannot wait to be up amongst the talent performing there, which includes many of our idols and inspirations from a long time ago. The Festival as a whole is just an unbelievable experience and great marketplace – we look forward to making the most of that.

CM: Beyond the Fringe, what’s next for the company? Do you have any new shows in development?
BMT: Yes we are in the very early stages of the creation of our tricky ‘second album’! We are lucky enough to have a great team behind us that have put what’s needed in place for us to expand as a company and add some new cast members and discipline into the BMT mix. We are ready for the challenge!

CM: And finally, what advice would you offer someone interested in embarking on a circus career?
BMT: Circus training is an awesome way to spend your time. The Institution we mentioned is fantastic for that. We knew nothing about this magical thing called circus and this school prepared us so well for the world we were entering.

‘Bromance’ was performed at Underbelly’s Circus Hub at Edinburgh Festival 2015.