Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Pythonesque semi-historical lecture loosely (and absurdly) charting the rise and fall of Constantinople (aka Istanbul) featuring two standout slapstick performances.
Constantinople; a now almost mythical city founded by Emperor Constantine in 330 BC, the acme of civilisation at the time and a testament to a benevolent dictator with an artistic bent, rose and fell like the Roman Empire itself and was eventually renamed Istanbul, now the terror of the modern English Football fan and drug ferrying students, is given a ridiculous yet hilarious revisionist re-visitation. The ride is wild and absurd featuring a charming, delicate disco-loving, pepper snorting Emperor – a dashing creation by Barnie Duncan – the originator of this "conglomeration of ideas" – and a fabulously effeminate, impossibly leggy hostess-cum-horse masseuse/psychoanalyst-cum-rave DJ by Trygve Wakenshaw – who also gives perhaps the finest slow disappearing act on the fringe. If this summation seems unlikely, it is probably as close as I am going to get.
Tie wearing is important because, while toga’d up, the two can’t have the gravitas to sell us the history of this once great city, but having donned a tie, we are able to swallow the facts (as they are) with confidence and are therefore able to continue with the story. Ties are thus created, painted, reflected, stuck on at crucial times in order to give us (apparently the audience) some semblance of decorum, but are ditched or dematerialised when we descend once more into the abyss of the absurd. Suffice it, we learn little concrete about Constantinople other than when it was founded, who by, that it became the centre of the (possibly) illegal pepper trade… and it had aqueducts.
Two rather extraordinary turns by Duncan and Wakenshaw keep the action flowing, never missing a beat or nuance. In fact, in order that we concentrate on the key moments, one has to almost leave the stage so that we are not distracted from the other. Notable moments include Duncan’s erudite, yet diffident stallion, determined to change his name from Tremmonbeard to Kyle, and Wakenshaw’s verging-on-genius Ibiza DJ, mimed perfectly timed to the pumping click track (complete with fiddly volume changes and disc changing crossovers) to which Duncan’s Constantine, donned with phallic pepper-grinder, can rave gracefully to the side.
Both performers are superb movers; graceful, specific, fun to watch and they never falter in their focus, committed as they are to their cause. Although the narrative is loose, this is not just a simple showcase for the two performer’s talents – though it is certainly that. This is perfect Edinburgh Fringe Fare. Tremendous entertainment for no-apparent-reason with two extremely professional performances at the core. Their timing is excellent, verging on exquisite. They function together like a well-tuned mini cooper – a machine that can fly like the wind, incredibly manoeuvrable, but never tries to be more than it is.
They are, sadly, let down by the venue – the sound bleed is inexcusable – (why permit a drum sound check while a show is playing in the next room?) but, their focus remains, as it should, right on the bulls-eye. I also feel that the show could go further. In creating their own delicious non-sequiturs, they can pretty much do as they please, showcasing their obvious performance skills – which, if delivered with such gusto, would be welcome. But it is a free show here in Edinburgh and demanding more bang for the buck would be churlish. As it is, you certainly get your monies-worth and, as the hat goes around at the end, you should certainly part with more than a little because they are from the other side of the world (literally) and here by wing and prayer. Generosity for generosity is thus the key and they are certainly generous.
4 stars MUST SEE