EFR - Reviews of Calypso Nights: Juan, Two?

Calypso Nights: Juan, Two?

Wed 5th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Simon Fearn

at 10:57 on 8th Aug 2015

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Calypso Nights was certainly an experience. Describing it is challenging: it sits somewhere between surreal stand-up, an offbeat DJ set and a deadpan comedy about modern music’s murky colonial past. Full marks for weirdness, but it’s safe to say that it’s not to everyone’s taste.

What holds the unstructured performance together is the oddball humour of Juan Vesuvius (Barnie Duncan). He had the audience in fits of laughter from the start simply through his fantastic facial expressions. Many people have devised embarrassing dance routines to Queen, but Duncan takes it to the next level. His irresistible stage persona meant that every attempt at audience participation was a resounding success (including crowd surfing), and people were queueing up at the end of the show to hug him.

One of the most successful jokes involves a pun on incense and incest. The start of the production mainly consisted of Juan comically mispronouncing Edinburgh; it evolved from ‘Edin-bore’ to ‘Edin-borg’, and finally to ‘Edin-burgo’. During the less-funny middle section, most of the gags derived from Juan inexpertly mixing two records, and then making an amusing mash-up of the artist’s names (e.g. Snoop Dogg + Phil Collins = Snoop Doggins). Highbrow humour this is not.

The show doesn't work as stand-up or a DJ set, but it still managed to get a tremendous reaction from the audience. By the end they were waving flags, wrestling with Juan as he tried to strip them, and tasting chutney in a curiously erotic fashion. My only conclusion is that I must have been missing something in order to remain unimpressed, but I’m not entirely sure what. If you go into Calypso Nights determined to enjoy yourself, I’m pretty sure that you will.

The production was always surreal, often hilarious and only occasionally tedious. True, some of the jokes did become repetitive, but some were well observed. It is only now that I have thought of a banana skin as akin to a condom, but somehow it feels it was meant to be. The black humour centred on Caribbean music’s link to the slave trade was also effective, particularly Juan’s post-colonial reinterpretation of a Disney Sinbad story.

In the end, Vesuvius’s talents primarily consist of a ready offbeat charm and a rare talent for finding bizarre vinyl. But tonight, that was enough. Don’t expect comedy gold, but I can safely say Calypso Nights is unlike anything else you’ll see at the Fringe.

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Liam Marchant

at 11:06 on 8th Aug 2015

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When I used to go on holiday as a kid – maybe to Faro, Lanzarote, or somewhere else with a similar amount of sun cream and cellulite – the highlight was invariably the high street discotheque. With lo-fi lighting and Vengaboys blasting on a Sony stereo, it was an early-noughties dream.

Last night, I had the pleasure of reliving that dream at Calypso Nights: Juan, Two?, a one-man show featuring Juan Vesuvius (Barnie Duncan), Venezuela’s hottest disc jockey.

From the moment he skis onto stage (or at least pretends to), Duncan casts a spell over the audience, all eyes fixed with awe on the lime shell suit he wears.

The first ten minutes of Duncan’s routine are centred on a half-pealed banana which he makes out to be a budgie, flying it around the stage and perching it on his shoulder. It is this sort of minimalistic silliness which comes to define the entire set as Duncan exhibits a knack for inducing laughter by simply mucking about – the only words he utters for these first ten minutes are ‘Edinburgh! Wow! Beautiful!’

Whether it’s an acid trip brought about by a lick of chutney or a mash up of Wham and jazz culminating in a genre he christens ‘Whazz’, Duncan works the audience with ease. No one can resist his Latin American persona’s charm. His one liners are second to none as well: ‘the Taliban are the guys who make home movies in caves, yes?’

If you are adverse to any sort of audience engagement, it’s probably advisable to sit at the back of theatre or give the whole thing a miss. Duncan invites as many as seven punters on stage at one point in Calypso Nights to mime along the instruments with him to one of his favourite records, each masked with a vinyl sleeve featuring an artist’s face with the eyes cut out.

In position behind decks draped in an Indian flag, most of DJ Juan’s material is music-based. Duncan’s use of the decks are spectacular – who knew that a toy boat containing Big Bird, Bert, and Ernie could be so funny when left to spin round on a turn table?

From Juan’s set, it’s no mystery why so many should find stress relief here. With all the worst music of the past forty years on 12” and the most earnest DJ in South America, you’re bound to have a good night.

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