Sean Burnett Dugdale-Martin
The chopsticks that were handed out as we entered were an excellent stim-toy while we watched. It’s actually a good accessory to any show to have something audiences can use their hands for quietly, as a matter of accessibility, so that those with more energy can spend it quietly and stay focused. When they were finally given their use in the show it was trusted as a discovery by the audience and not something Duncan had to tell us. Duncan constantly brings his own take to the stand-up format and even as a more stripped back version of the stage-shows of his I have seen, his personality constantly shines through.
Last time I reviewed Duncan it was for Bunny, which had a much clearer direction in terms of themes. This show didn’t have so much of an obvious structure or theme. Duncan’s trademark tangentiality serves him well, it feels like a genuine translation of how his mind works, and the tangents aren’t totally estranged. Throughout the show Duncan fearlessly includes jokes, gestures, props and physical comedy pieces that reference something earlier in the piece but also allude to something much larger throughout the entire hour.
An example of this would be the concept of shifting perspectives. It’s difficult to explain what I mean here without spoilers so SPOILER WARNING but I will also keep it quite vague! Within the piece Duncan articulates how he loves observational comedy because it simply re-organises our perspective on things to remind us how hilarious or crazy they actually are. He refers to weed doing the same thing, and through the show he repositions a key part of the stage, shifting our collective perspective, and then also shifts an audience member at the end of the show, shifting a personal perspective.
It’s multi-layered and non-obvious explorations like this which makes me often think about Duncan’s work long after I leave his shows. I admire work that has layers of themes which can be accessed by an audience who are curious, but are not heavy-handed or necessary to enjoy the show as a whole. It tells me the creative team has thought a lot about what they’re creating. It works especially well in the context of the Comedy Festival where people would most commonly come through for a night of laughs and not necessarily for thought-provoking art. Having both, without one infringing on the other, is the sign of a great show.
Duncan once again proves himself worthy of his accolades. Just Jolks - Barnie Duncan is on as part of the Comedy Fest until the 27th May- at BATS Theatre, more info here.