Sean Burnett Dugdale-Martin
Come on in. Buckle up. One of the best parts about Duncan as a performer is that he doesn’t start the audience at the shallow end of the pool. Barnie gives it 100% the entire time. This show isn’t really a typical quote-on-quote “show” as well, more of a tangentially connected string of jokes and rants that follow a set theme, often taking stops to enjoy the odd thoughts. It’s hard to explain… but in a cool way.
Duncan is a maestro of comedy and clowning, and a lot of his seasoned skill comes across many times in Bunny, but what really makes it a Barnie Duncan Show is the vast amount of effort he puts in. It’s Duncans conviction that carries his audience through his gags, puns, jokes, throwbacks and occasionally five straight minutes of silent mime. The multiple themes running through the show are consciously tripped between by Duncan as he uses his trademark tangent-absurdism (see Taphead from 2021) to explore and express each one. He goes through living with grief, newly becoming a parent, and the yearning of doof-doof club times that stems from a chasing of a high or a running from a low.
Near the beginning of the show Barnie introduces himself as a “fragile vase wrapped in a protective layer of dumb jokes” (or something to that effect) which made the whole experience an emotionally honest one. Bunny gives the impression of being a genuine engagement between Duncan and his own experiences, and in his complicated specificity the audience finds something universal to tap into, and as an audience member, we learn quickly to trust Duncan because he always seems in control of the performance, even when the content gets dark. Often Bunny is an addictive glimpse into the real-time goings-on in Duncan’s head with a magnifying glass on his left-field tangents and the more you stick around, the more you want.
Within the show Duncan has a companion in the form of a programmed scrolling LED sign that hangs above the stage, evocative of cringe signs found in sleazy clubs and midnight kebab shops. It’s enticing to watch Duncan work in conjunction with his electronic companion and they often set up and deliver excellent gags together. I am, however, left a little wanting in the development of their relationship. The show is a dedication to and a love letter for his own mother, Robyn, and about him living with the grief of that loss. I wonder what games Duncan could play with the possible loss of his electronic companion? Could there be a power cut? Could a gag go wrong and break the thing? Where would it leave our tangential clown if their robot companion is gone for good?
Duncan performs like people live. He is funny, brutal, and truthful when truth calls. It is an awesome body of work and if you’re looking for something genuine, something out of the ordinary, something where the performers really work for the price of your ticket. Please PLEASE go see Bunny.
Bunny has finished its season at BATS Theatre, info here, but fingers crossed we will see this body of work again.