I'll confess it. I'm a circus virgin. I know nothing about acrobatics except that I can't do anything like it. However, I think I speak for the average Fringe punter by saying that you'd be missing out if you didn't make the trip to Underbelly’s Circus Hub during your festival stay, and that
Kin is an incredible experience. The perfect introduction to circus performance.
The Barely Methodical Troupe combine impressive hand-to-hand acrobatics and Cyr wheel set pieces with a dynamic storyline. Five male performers stand wearing laurel wreaths, frozen on white boxes at the back of the tent. Through a series of sketches and songs, we learn that they are competing for the approval of an ethereal judge. This stern, magnetic woman presides over the stage with omniscient authority, and she demands that each male performer complete a series of challenges. These challenges flow through interviews, intimate questions, comic interludes, and, of course, solo and group acrobatics. Ranging dramatically in tone from tense to sensual, majestic to playful, Kin is ever captivating.
The troupe’s fusion of genres is it's distinctive feature, and part of the reason why it is so enjoyable even for someone who is not an acrobatics expert. However, especially at the beginning, their deliberately alienating stillness and silences are more confusing than intriguing. In their opening sketches it is almost as if the troupe are trying to prove to the audience that they are not ‘just’ circus performers - but really we are simple little louts baying for tricks. The performers seem aware of this, even playfully calling out to the audience for applause to encourage more dramatic flips and jumps. Once we have been thrown a few pieces and have settled into the structure, however, the audience come to appreciate the emotional range which these strange interludes give to the piece. The opportunity to get to know these performers as characters certainly lends a weight of significance to their choices of style. Seeing one character develop from cheeky and overtly sexy at the beginning, to gentle and amazed adds genuine poignancy to his relationship with the judge. After all this, we don't want there to be only one winner. The conclusion of the story feels slightly disappointing for this reason - we want some kind of surprise, or group success. This doesn't stop the audience from giving a standing ovation, however, and we leave justly amazed.
The large space doesn't help: when they speak without the microphone we cannot hear their words, and their frequent and long silences drag rather than build tension. Kin are not at all helped by their venue either: the tent’s fabric-thin walls do nothing to block out the obnoxiously loud dance music coming from the bar next door. I've never been more annoyed to hear the strains of Earth, Wind and Fire’s September than halfway through Kin’s otherwise stunning dance about brotherly love.
Let down only by flaws in the venue, Kin is an incredible experience. The perfect introduction to circus performance; definitely do find time to go.