Calypso Nights

Wed 30th July – Mon 25th August 2014


Bridey Addison-Child

at 03:58 on 10th Aug 2014



As I write this review, my jaw aches from the amount of laughing I did during Barnie Duncan’s performance of ‘Calypso Nights’. This is a side-splitting, feel-good production, oozing originality out of every comical pore - I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

For starters, the style of the show is an unusual theatrical/stand-up comedy hybrid. Juan Vesuvius (Barnie Duncan) is a Venezuelan DJ turned comedian, who has come, along with his two turntables and dizzying array of records, to play a DJ set and comedy show. The only problem? The show is supposed to be in Spanish. The house lights are up, the records are spinning, but after a confusing Spanish-filled five minutes, Juan ‘discovers’ that his audience are English, and is forced to resort to other tactics in order to entertain them, despite the language barrier.

This choice to blur the line between audience and character was a clever one. Expect to get involved in this show – audience members played maracas and danced to Kate Bush, among other things, all to hilarious effect. I wasn’t really sure if there was a fourth wall, and if there was, which side of it I was on. As a piece of acting, Duncan’s cheekily confident portrayal of Juan was flawless, but his performance was much more than that – the genuine personal interaction with the audience was where the show came alive, and had the majority of the crowd in stitches.

Further, the range of material tackled was a real strength of the show. There was an unavoidable element of ridicule in Juan’s outfit (a particularly dashing combo of tight leggings and a frilly shirt) and a few classically amusing jokes about British culture. But after this the comedy was quirky and unpredictable in all the right ways, covering the history of Calypso and Soca in a kind of ‘how to seduce people with music’ master class.

As Duncan displayed his surprisingly deft hand in a sketch with maracas (a particular highlight), I was reminded irresistibly of Monty Python, and their tendency to be eccentrically, utterly unique. There was also a strong dose of well-judged political satire that was genuinely clever. Refreshingly then, at the heart of this show was a real core of sophisticated comment; the importance of accepting others despite differences, and the importance in enjoying life – in loving, not hating. This might all sound clichéd, but it was subtle and understated – a true example of comedy being used in an sharply intelligent way.

Besides all this, I just had a really good time. It’s true that the premise of the show is a little bizarre. But then, that’s why Duncan’s performance is so funny. It’s hilariously inventive: about as out-of-the-box as you can get, and nothing is lost in translation.


Marnie Langeroodi

at 09:28 on 10th Aug 2014



Think Latin America, the Caribbean, maracas (from Caracas) and a whole lot of music. Barnie Duncan is Venezuelan Calypso DJ Juan Vesuvius and he’s very, very funny. This Calypso-fuelled show has the audience laughing uncontrollably throughout. Our cheeky host is bursting with charisma. His show is well written and delivered with excellent comic timing.

We jam to a whole lot of Calypso music, including the great Mighty Sparrow, and we turn up the spice with Soca. DJ Juan shares some interesting interpretations of these songs and demonstrates his serious skills with the maracas. At one point he sings an awesome ditty of his own.

Duncan’s use of props is genius. He makes the most not just of the records themselves, but their sleeves, creating hilarious combinations – a treat for the eyes and the ears, then. Duncan is a really talented DJ and he makes it look easy. It’s amazing what he can do with two turntables and some vinyl records.

A lot of the material is very sexually orientated, perhaps a bit too much at times. Eventually he moves on to political comedy, again to spread the love. The message: our ‘tribes’ have got to stop clashing. Life’s one big group hug in the world of ‘Calypso Nights’, so put down the guns and turn up the music.

When (not if) you see this, don’t expect to just sit back – Duncan will get you talking, get you shaking (maracas) and he’ll even get you up and dancing by the time the night is through.

As you may have guessed by now, ‘Calypso Nights’ is extremely feed-good… Scratch that, it’s feel-great! However much the Fringe has worn you out, Duncan’s sure to make you laugh. Have a drink and enjoy the party.


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