When the Fred Award nominees came out in 2019, I was a little surprised to see Barnie Duncan's name on there. It was nothing against him or his show Taphead – it was simply that, with so many dozens of shows on in each festival, that had passed under the radar.
It was with great curiosity that I went to see his latest show, Bunny, which has already been billed as "future award winning". Even after catching his set at the Basement Preview show, I had very little idea of what to expect, and it turns out that's the best way to enter one of Duncan's shows.
Bunny is ostensibly about clubbing, with Duncan aiming to recapture the glory and freewill that comes with the experience after a year spent in Melbourne's ongoing lockdowns. But he makes it clear early on he is also performing the show in the months after his mother's death, shortly after becoming a father himself.
While it may sound like a bleak premise, Duncan makes it clear it's not a "dead parent show". Grief and coping weaves through the show, but Bunny is largely a collection of eccentric mimed sketches, impressions and dance breaks that diverge into tangents on cruel butterflies, nostalgia bros and animal abuse.
The show is also aided by an LED sign in place of the usual Basement projector, which adds rather than detracts from the show, with some perfectly executed virtual gags.
There are a lot of distinct parts to Bunny, and in hindsight it feels like it shouldn't have worked, but Duncan has crafted a show that manages to make every part mean something and fits together to make comedy's most eclectic jigsaw.
It probably helps that Bunny has been designed to feel more like a play or one-man show then your usual Comedy Festival line-up. It features an original soundtrack by DJ Dick Johnson and choreography from Liv Tennent, and the thanks list at the end features a number of notable theatre practitioners.
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And while there are some heavy moments that feel darker than most comedy shows, Duncan never diverges from the lighter moments for too long. The club theme remains at its heart – my friend described it as being basically a documentary – and the use of music is just of the many technical achievements Bunny pulls off.
Hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure, Bunny proves why Barnie Duncan is definitely bound for future award glory. You'll struggle to stop laughing during the show, and the powerful conclusion will ensure this show stays with you in a way few festival shows can achieve.
What: Barnie Duncan, Bunny.
Where: Basement Theatre, until May 8.