Rich Jevons discusses the extraordinary acrobatic antics of Barely Methodical troupe with Louis Gift who explains the techniques they use to tell a tale of three lads together in their forthcoming show Bromance at Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield.
For the benefit of readers who aren’t specialists in circus skills could you explain some of the techniques you use?
Parkour is like free running, similar to when you’re young at school and you pretended the floor was made of lava, trying to get around the playground without touching the floor. It’s running up walls and jumping from wall to wall and even climbing buildings. It’s all about getting from one place to another in the most efficient way possible. Then there’s the Cyr Wheel [a large metal ring], which is such a cool piece of equipment. It’s nice because it’s a really young form, as far as disciplines go, and there are loads of new moves being created.
B-boying is a colloquial term for breakdancing, including things like headspins, acrobatic and aggressive dancing, lots of floorwork, threading limbs through other limbs, contorting your body into weird shapes and on top of all that – being in beat to the music as well. Tricking is another technique which stems from extreme martial arts but it’s performed more for the acrobatics side. You don’t fight anyone, it’s more for demonstration.
What was the main thing you took from your time at the National Centre for Circus Arts?
It was our discipline and importantly we got to know what to do if we ever got injured. Meeting new people was great; there are so many people doing amazing stuff in such a nice environment.
What is the difference between your ‘experimental’ acrobatic circus and a more conventional approach?
Because of our backgrounds prior to circus, we try to bring individual experiences to the table when we are creating work. It’s experimental in the sense that we add a bit of dance flavour and intertwine the acrobatics with b-boying or tricking. It’s neither one or the other.
Is it important for you to break down barriers and just ‘do what you do’?
Yes, as a company we’re constantly looking for inspiration and how we can take conventional circus moves and put an unconventional twist on them. That’s our mark or feel. For example, there’s a move called Cannonball where my partner jumps up in the air and I catch his hand and he goes through my legs like a pendulum. We’ve tried lots of different variations to this move that we’ve never seen before.
A lot of circus performers will come from a gymnastic background and they’ve been doing stuff since they were three years-old, whereas we started when we were 19 or 20. We’d never done any circus before that. So instead of going for the hardest most technically difficult tricks, we try and be original using an existing trick and put a creative twist or spin on it.
What is behind the word Bromance for you?
You sometimes think of lads being loud, but we wanted to look at what male friendships are really like behind all the macho stuff. Doing hand-to-hand means that basically we’re holding hands a lot of the time, and we’re asking if that’s okay and how we feel about it.
I understand as well that you slow the pace down.
Yes, it’s got ebbs and flows and there’s definitely a narrative that the audience can get involved in.
What kind of narrative can we expect?
We didn’t necessarily think of any narrative, but we created material in sections and stuck it together in an order that made sense.
Because there’s three of us, we’re looking at the idea of three’s a crowd. In terms of narrative, you can expect it to be quite awkward and comedic, but there are also some sad moments and moments of stillness.
You’re risking life and limb. What happens when things go wrong? What’s the worst accident you’ve ever had?
My shoulder joints are shallow and tend to pop out quite a lot, which isn’t very nice but compared to a deeper joint when they do pop, it’s not as serious. But given the nature of our discipline it’s not ideal, luckily it’s never happened during a show. We get knocked around a bit just from doing acrobatics, so we get bruises on our knees and ankles, but they’re just superficial.
Do you enjoy the risk and danger within the performance?
Yes, it’s a buzz, completely. It’s the reason why we started doing this in the first place – it’s a lot of fun!
Photo Credit:Matilda Temperley