Words – Julia Howland

Photos – Julia Howland

Him… Melbourne Fringe Festival

The theatre has a special place in my heart. I ventured into the thespian world during high school but was more of an extra than anything else. The bright lights burning holes into you, strange eyes monitoring your every move, and the creation of other worlds always excited me. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for everyone else) I did not pursue this passion, but have relished in watching others excel as I wish I had. And when you get to watch someone perform as flawlessly as Barnie Duncan, that acceptance of my own inabilities becomes that much easier.

I went into this show knowing nothing about it. Nothing about “him,” nothing about what was to come. I was guided into a small room covered, floor to ceiling, in newspapers. I stepped, with each crunch, to stack of newspapers that was my seat. Admittedly, this sparked my interest. As the music began, our attention was caught by a slight shuffling coming from a pile of crumpled newspaper at the front of the room. An arm reached outwards. More shuffling. Resemblances of hair, then a head, peer through the jungle of headlines. At last he emerges and introduces the audience to what later becomes clear is his only true acquaintance in this world of ink and wood pulp: a white jacket stuffed with old papers.

Duncan introduces us to the life of a hoarder. Lonely, complicated and yearning for something more, this man moves through each day expanding on the experiences of the outside world. He captures the daily weather through generic commentator’s jargon, mimics the process of cooking up the latest healthy spring recipe, and mourns our beloved deceased. Each day brings something new and each performance is Duncan’s personal and eloquent take on our world that day. He falls in love with the famous that scatter our media and he falls victim to the stark realisation that this life is not his. He wants out.

Duncan produced an amazing array of emotions within the audience in only sixty short minutes. I have found myself wanting to watch him over and over again. He is not only an exceptional performer but begs us to question that essence that is society; our values, our entertainment, and our everyday life.