At Shoreditch Town Hall this May, theatre and circus collide to produce something truly unique. Barely Methodical Troupe (BMT) bring their third original project SHIFT to London, showing the city a side to acrobatics that it might not have encountered before. You know that you’re in for something different when a show starts with someone standing on someone else’s head, but by the time the show comes full circle when the move is repeated at the end, you’ll have experienced more than you could have imagined.
I can only describe SHIFT as a work of narrative acrobatics. It isn’t ever entirely clear what the story is, but it certainly has some Stranger Things vibes to it. Four acrobats; Louis Gift, Beren D’Amico, Charlie Wheeler and Esmeralda Nikolajeff use nothing but their bodies, a few bands and a cyr wheel to create a physical performance that stirs the senses. I must admit, sitting in the front row is a little scary at times, but the performers play with the obvious precarity of their work with perfectly timed worried glances to the audience and coordinated squeaks of fear. Their ability to perform such daring routines while cracking jokes and making the audience laugh is remarkable, Gift in particular has a certain knack for this.
While their physical work is undoubtedly impressive, this show is indebted to its direction and design by Melissa Ellberger, Ella Robson Guilfoyle and Lucy Sierra, who use lighting, sound and space to make the most of the performers’ work. Sound and music, in particular, give this show its edge. Many genres of music are featured and every song is perfectly chosen for the scene it accompanies. In one particularly stirring moment, just as you think Nikolajeff is the star of the show, Wheeler comes out of nowhere with a wheel routine set to Max Ritcher’s recomposed version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – creating a few minutes that can only be described as joyful. Each performer has a moment to shine with a solo routine, all of which are entertaining enough, but they’re a little lacklustre when compared to the brilliant moves they manage to pull off as a team.
Whether you’re a fan of circus acrobatics already or not, if you get a chance to see SHIFT this May then I implore you to take it. BMT have created their very own magic with this show, as they take something innately frightening and make it profoundly peaceful and playful.
SHIFT is playing until 18 May. For more information and tickets, visit the Shoreditch Town Hall website.