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Clowns Deliver Some of the Best Slapstick You'll See
Last night my partner and I rushed down to bustling West End to catch a show I highly recommend you all see – Weekend at Barnie's. We were lucky enough to find a street park pretty close by at 7pm and the show started at 7.15. Hot tip for young players, it can take up to 30 minutes sometimes to find one in that part of town so you might be better off catching the bus. Once parked we briskly walked past all the posers and hip kids in the cafes and bars to reach Ben's Burgers on Boundary Street.
After quickly ordering a bargain $20 burger, chips and beer deal to share between us, we took our order number to the back bar. The bar is undercover but not fully walled so you have some exposure to the elements. Fortunately, it was a lovely cool Brisbane autumn evening so it was very pleasant. Ferns and hanging plants were slung from the ceiling in big silver tubs, there was wire fencing reminiscent of the school yard, all adding up to a feeling of nouveau minimalist design.
Pre-show, the hip looking bearded guy behind the bar scrambled as fast as he could to keep pace with the thirst of the packed opening night crowd. Meanwhile, Dani Cabs (Adelaide Fringe Emerging Artist Nominee 2015) was already at work playing with the excitable audience as they settled in with their drinks and snacks. He delivered charming little snatches of interactions and physical humour. It was very lighthearted and not mean spirited toward the crowd.
As Dani worked the audience, Barnie Duncan (MICF Best Newcomer nominee, 2015) sat motionless on the couch, his costuming mirroring the one worn by the eponymous dead guy in the classic eighties movie Weekend at Bernie's. He retained amazing levels of focus, sitting there with one arm tied to a rope slung over a strand of lighting in the rafters.
The lights went down in the house and what followed was a show that was less homage and more inspired or influenced by the movie. Dani told me the show's inspiration came from, "A mutual appreciation for the wonderful cinematic masterpiece Weekend at Bernie's… plus Barnie looks like Bernie."
It was, simply put, a great show. Weekend at Barnie's was packed full of laughs and fun from before the start to the very end. The performers had excellent comic timing and took concepts to the extreme to garner laughs. The lighting and sound engineer, Jovian Delaforce was perfect. His timing and interaction with the performers brought another dimension to the humour.
Physical comedy isn't easy, but Dani and Barnie made it look effortless. These two experienced clowns and improvisers presented a show that had a charming innocence mixed with dark humour. There were jokes that were sexy but not bawdy or crass. At times the humour was edgy and provided meaningful social commentary without feeling like the performers had dumped the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Dani had charisma and unbounded energy while Barnie was focused and infinitely trusting of his performance partner. The risk-taking is to be commended. Their clowning and slapstick comedy was unpredictable but not terrifyingly so. We still felt safe in the performers' hands. Moments that looked chaotic were clearly very well rehearsed. Dani told me the show's development took, "Three days in Melbourne in January, four and a half days in Brisbane in March, then eight days in Melbourne leading up to comedy fest," he added, "Then we did ten nights for Melbourne Comedy Fest (MICF) and now we're here."
Weekend at Barnie's was well paced with a nice flow. The use of music and lighting was very clever and there were some lovely running gags, especially the business with the swimming pool. Amid all the slapstick we were treated to just as many meaningful and thought-provoking jokes as silly and absurd ones.
My partner and I honestly couldn't fault the show. It was a total joy to behold. The rest of the audience loved it too, so we weren't alone in that feeling. When we got home, my partner, who isn't an easy man to please, said that was an excellent date night and I agreed. It was one of the most pleasurable nights out we'd had in a while. You don't have to take a date to Weekend at Barnie's. It would be just as good for a night with the girls or the boys – but it's definitely not for kids.
You've only got until the 21st of May to see this show, so book now and get on down to Ben's Burgers in West End before it's over.