“As entertaining as he is inventive”
It’s very hard to tell the flavours in a good condiment apart. It’s that phenomenon when two different kinds of thing come together to form something completely new, and often indescribable. Somewhat ironically to the themes of Barnie Duncan’s riotous show, “Calypso Nights: Juan, Two?” very much contributes to that phenomenon. It’s dance, music, laughter and ridiculousness all rolled up into something which resembles a surprisingly entertaining, cuba-libre flavoured fever dream.
Presented by high-powered DJ Juan Vesuvius (Duncan), Calypso Nights is a spicy blend of music, comedy and Caribbean-tinged factoids, tied together by his considerable powers as a mix DJ and seemingly never-ending cultural knowledge.
And the Caribbean couldn’t ask for a better ambassador, fictional or otherwise: with a pair of turntables and expertly used dry ice, Duncan dominated the small stage with such confidence that he managed to pull off the bizarro-world Elvis look. And it was that very bravado that served to underscore the blurring between audience member and participant; it requires a special type of performer to turn an at first reticent audience into a flag-waving dance party – but DJ Juan Vesuvius has the knack.
The message of the benefit of mixtures was wholeheartedly present throughout the act: his DJ’ing skills had a surprising substance and quality quite unheralded by his pidgin english-spouting exterior. Mixing between seemingly dissonant bands and musical styles, Duncan creates something new and interesting nearly every time – although, his high energy weirdness threatens to send the unstable show into meltdown towards the end, where the comedy content is eaten up somewhat by a fusion cascade of sheer strangeness.
If you’re looking for a night of nigh-indescribable fun, Juan Vesuvius is your man. As entertaining as he is inventive, it’s hard to top this dose of musical chutney.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 26 August)
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