5 good Reasons to see Barnie Duncan, Tap Head

1 – Barnie has been drawing Tap Head the cartoon since last century

2 – Taps are people too

3 – It will probably win all the awards so you want to be one of the people who can say they were there before it broke

4 – There is a great joke about pretzels in it

5 – Barnie’s mum helped him write it

Barnie Duncan Performs Tap Head at ACMI

Tap Head

By Colin Flaherty

What a fascinating premise for a show. A man with a tap for a head. I was all set for an hour of plumbing humour but in the hands of New Zealand comic actor / mime / all-round silly bugger Barnie Duncan, this was so much more.

The Tap Head character was a wonderful creation both in physically and performativity. With its limited field of vision it’s amazing that Duncan could find his way around the stage let alone convey a range of complex emotions with this featureless fellow. Brilliant sound design was essential in creating this world. Whether it was the bright lit stand up stage, an empty street or a fantasy world, this soundtrack set each scene perfectly. The sound tech was also a character in this performance which blurred the lines between this surreal world and our reality.

This show’s narrative alternated between Tap Head’s daily life performed in mime and the stand up routines of Barnie Juancan. The comedy was wonderfully silly observational material that explored seemingly random topics using plenty of clever wordplay and fascinatingly skewed logic. It was punctuated with musical stings where Duncan showed off his hilarious physicality by dancing wildly to Cha Cha and German Techno.

In stark contrast, Tap Head’s scenes transported us to a strange yet familiar world where our hero led a rather tragic life. He was subjected to some comical misfortune and often retreated to a dream world of happiness which kept things from becoming too bleak. This fellow also took to the stage to perform his own stand up which was as heartbreakingly sad as his life off stage and also served the purpose of providing verbal background to the mime scenes.

When the worlds of Tap Head and Juancan collided most of the initial randomness became clear. Some of the call backs related to Tap Head’s emotional journey while others seemed to only exist for the sake of closure. Things culminated with a stirring speech and song that, while not quite a triumphant conclusion, was sufficiently uplifting and joyous to send us out of the theatre in a happy mood.

This work in progress will likely undergo many iterations but even in these early stages, Duncan has already created a magical experience.

Tap Head is on at Club Voltaire until September 30

Different Party by Trygve Wakenshaw and Barnie Duncan

By Angela East
Different Party

As the audience take their seats Trygve Wakenshaw and Barnie Duncan—or rather, Grareth Krubb and Dennis Chang—welcome you into Rucks’s Leather Interiors showroom. They hand out business cards while running a sales pitch for their leather goods with the catch phrase “imagine a room covered in skin” and they admire any leather products people in the audience have with them.

The welcome is the extent of the audience interaction. The rest of the performance takes place on stage in the ‘office’. With minimal dialogue, their brilliant skills in clowning and physical theatre take the audience through their absurd day. There is whimsical exploration of their office relationship. Briefcases become dogs. Everyday office banter mutates into surreal scenarios. And in a fight of dominance they take on animalistic behaviours to explore their underlying sexual tension in absurd acrobatic displays.

The most ordinary office staples such as coffee cups and sheets of paper are used in a variety of hilariously unexpected ways. The simple act of looking for a pen while on a phone call becomes a madly chaotic farce.

Trygve and Barnie are masters at clowning and together in Different Party they form a great odd-couple comedy partnership. The never-ending source of slapstick and visual gags from the various props around the stage is inspired: a wafer biscuit snack becomes a believable cigarette, a pot plant is involved in a ridiculously funny running gag, and a scenario on the sourcing of leather for a new chair cover is hilariously grotesque.

Both performers have been being nominated for various fringe and comedy festival awards in the past few years and Different Party shows why. Trygve and Barnie each have other shows on during the festival (Nautilus, and Weekend at Barnies respectively) and if Different Party is anything to go by, those two shows will also worth trying to catch.

Different Party is at ACMI until April 23rd