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Barely Methodical Troupe Circus: An Interview with Director Ben Duke
Image Credit: Tristram Kenton, Barely Methodical Troupe, Circusfest 2016, Roundhouse

Barely Methodical Troupe Circus: An Interview with Director Ben Duke

10 June 2017 | Laura Garmeson

The Barely Methodical Troupe took the circus world by storm with their genre-defying debut Bromance, which took a fresh, freewheeling look at friendship and masculinity. Now they’ve teamed up with choreographer and contemporary dance maestro Ben Duke, who has directed their critically acclaimed follow-up, Kin. As BMT tours Kin across the country, we caught up with Duke to talk about the new show and the enduring power of performance.

Culture Calling: Could you tell us a little about how you first encountered the Barely Methodical Troupe? How did you end up working with them?
 
Ben Duke: I first encountered BMT in Edinburgh in 2015. I’d already heard a lot about their first show Bromance and so I went to see it at the Circus Hub and thought it was great. I was also performing up there and I think there was a mutual checking out going on as they came to see my show, and after that I had a conversation with their producer who said they were looking for a director for their new show, and would I be interested. I of course said yes.


Image Credit: Tristram Kenton, Barely Methodical Troupe, Circusfest 2016, Roundhouse
 
CC: The troupe have been described as ‘new wave circus’. What do you think makes BMT different from more traditional circus acts?
 
BD: I should own up to not being a circus expert, my interest in it is relatively recent, but what I felt watching Bromance was that they were a company able to combine their own story and their characters with the tricks and the physical routines. As a result, their show didn’t feel episodic; it felt whole, and as an audience member I went on a kind of theatrical journey with them. This is an idea we’ve carried forward into Kin. I think the company are interested in creating a theatrical as well as a circus experience. That is what I think makes them interesting. They have a curiosity about how the audience can have both the ‘wow factor’ of circus and the emotionally rich experience of theatre. 
 

Image Credit: Tristram Kenton, Barely Methodical Troupe, Circusfest 2016, Roundhouse

CC: For the uninitiated, what can we expect from the current show Kin?
 
BD: It is hard to describe, but basically it is a show about a group of characters trapped in an unusual situation who express themselves and compete with each other through their brilliant circus skills. The themes of the show are power struggles and family; it is about how we compete and how we collaborate. But it’s much funnier than that makes it sound. So much of the experience of watching it is in what happens to you when you see someone flying through the air and your heart climbs into your mouth. 
 
CC: How have you found directing the Barely Methodical Troupe compared to choreographing contemporary dancers?
 
BD: The similarity is that both circus artists and contemporary dancers are physical experts so a lot of the process comes back to the body. The difference is that these circus artists’ focus is outward and the physicality is extroverted compared to the unusually introverted form of contemporary dance. I loved the openness and generosity of the circus tricks and how they included the audience in all that they do, but I also felt a need to encourage them to consider how it feels as well as how it looks.


Image Credit: Tristram Kenton, Barely Methodical Troupe, Circusfest 2016, Roundhouse
 
CC: Blurring boundaries between theatre and dance seems to be a common theme in your work. What do you think draws you to this?
 
BD: It is all performance, and I think the most interesting work is always combining and crossing genres – not for the sake of it, but because I think we experience the world in many different ways, and if performance wants to reflect that it needs to be fluid. Very simplistically, pure theatre and pure dance (if such things exist) never really got to the bottom of it for me. The shows that always touched me and felt like they spoke about my experience of life were always hybrid, so I wanted to make work like that. 


Image Credit: Tristram Kenton, Barely Methodical Troupe, Circusfest 2016, Roundhouse
 
CC: What are your upcoming projects? Do you have any plans to collaborate with Barely Methodical Troupe again in future?
 
BD: I am working on a duet for my company, Lost Dog, based on Romeo and Juliet, I am creating a piece for Rambert Dance company which will premiere in October and there are more circus projects in the pipeline some of which I hope will involve BMT. 
 
Barely Methodical Troupe will be performing Kin at the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 June. See the theatre website for more information.
 
 
 

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