Red and byzantine-blue disco lights are flashing intermittently across the page of my notebook. Raging house music is filling our dimly-lit intimate surroundings, leaving just enough audible room for consistent laughter. Barnie Duncan just finished lovingly breastfeeding his miniature cardboard-model city and left the stage to gesticulate, pelvic thrust and dance around a pole at the back of this festive atmosphere. He is now immediately to my right – lying flat on his back on a bench in a toga, sweating, rubbing himself up against a laughing member of the audience as he loses himself in the blood red light, experiencing wave after wave of imperial ecstasy during a recreation of the first drug fuelled Constantinopolitan disco-tech. On stage, the anatomically comic and wholesomely bearded Trgyve Wakenshaw is also adorned with a Toga, a blonde wig and skin-tight camo crop-top – both hands pointed to the sky in a celebratory manner – playing, mixing and scratching on his imaginary turn tables perfectly synchronised with the corresponding sound effects. My friend has just leaned over for the third time to thank me for bringing her to the show, I have a glass of Otago pinot noir in my hand, various incarnations of similar histrionics have been playing out for the last forty five minutes and we are all still laughing merrily.
History blended with comedy (Histomedy/Comistry) – a zealous celebration of the absurd – intelligent, liberated performance art – Constantinople, takes the viewer through a ‘mildly educational’ shotgun history lesson of the rise and fall of the great Roman city after which the show was named. Following enthusiastic reviews at both the Edinburgh and Adelaide Fringe Festivals, it has arrived at The Melbourne International Comedy Festival with thousands of lols under its toga and is compulsory viewing for all those interested in witnessing some of the best of what contemporary New Zealand physical comedy has to offer.
“I’m not a girl, I’m a stallion” – Kyle the horse.
The brainchild of Barnie Duncan (actor and accomplished musician), Constantinople is a pun-rich, thoroughly entertaining showcase of original ideas, physical theatricality, spontaneous ridiculousness and preposterous pontifications. A guffaw inducing journey into the minds of those gifted with an innate understanding of comedic timing, dynamics, quality and subtlety. The show is perfectly paced, the developed concepts have room to breathe within an accesible slapstick architecture, the performance is cunningly choreographed and superfluous fluff makes a welcome no-show throughout the evening.
The seamless onstage dynamic between Duncan and Wakenshaw is, and could only be born from , the long, fruitful and award-winning thespian friendship they have enjoyed over nine years of collaborating as artists in comedy outfit, Theatre Beating.
“We wanted to create the type of theatre that our mates would want to see, with an atmosphere akin to that of a live music gig; where it is okay to talk to your friend, to the stage, to get up from your seat when you need to piss or buy another beer.” – Barnie Duncan
“Originally we were inspired by physicality, devising, slapstick comedy and silent film, satire, and live music….and we have continued to cement our ethics and ethos with every subsequent production.” – Trygve Wakenshaw.
If their use of words like satire, akin, ethic and ethos weren’t enough to cement your decision to attend, here is a randomly generated list of reasons why everyone in Melbourne should go to see this show:
1. Two grown men parade around in flesh coloured G-strings.
2 . The performers are having as much, if not more fun than anyone else involved. You really get the feeling Duncan and Wakenshaw had a hilarious time pulling the show together and are just stoked to be able to share their humour and bare asses with an engaged and absorbent audience.
3. There are sequin adorned horses with identity issues riding through fields of glitter.
4. You get to pelt them with grapes at the end of the show, or eat them during the performance.
5. There is a slave called Slave.
6. Rod Stewart makes an appearance with a sexual fetish for furniture.
7. The effective use of Ukelele and delicious bombs.
8. There is a mushroom cloud made of real mushroom.
9. Resourceful and creative use of Togas.
10. The performers sweat.
11. They both have commendable facial hair.
12. If you rearrange all the words from other reviews into a hybrid western haiku you get:
choreographed comic timing nonsensical,
incredible comedy hour.
Twelve reasons, one plagiarised poem and Five Stars.
Playing till the 22nd April, Tues – Sat 7pm, Sun 6pm, Trades Hall – Old Council Chambers – Get Tickets.
Words: James Watkins