“Imagine a wall lined with skin.”
That’s the tantalising sales hook of Rucks’ s [sic] Leather Interiors, the setting of Different Party: Trygve Wakenshaw & Barnie Duncan, who are back together again after a few years of well-received solo shows like Kraken and Calypso Nights. The sensational hour-long sketch takes equal parts expert physical comedy and earnest Kiwi humour to offer what is arguably the most accomplished comedy show of this year’s Fringe.
Business partners and 'best bros' Grarreth Krubb and Dennis Chang are having an eventful day at the office. They’ve wall-skin to sell, but stuff keeps getting in the way. This is the basis for what can only be judged a masterclass in slapstick and prop comedy. Wakenshaw and Duncan are amongst the finest physical comedians around and are incredibly comfortable with each other’s clowning antics. I don’t mean to disparage stand-up comedians, but there is a level of craft to physical comedy that leaves one breathless with both admiration and mirth. What’s equally impressive is how naturally they’ve blended the prop comedy into the skit. Never has any Fringe show's set been so directly a part of a show's appeal. Briefcases, pens, mugs, chairs, phones, papers: no mundane office supply is safe from being transformed into a "mountain of paperwork" over Wakenshaw's head or into a sensual coffee shower for Duncan. The sheer imagination on display is undeniably engaging, and the audience was eagerly anticipating the drop of the next absurd riff.
What forms the adhesive that makes Different Party stick with you, however, is the duo's impeccable comedic timing. With sparse dialogue, so much is spoken through their movements, gestures and reactions. Watching the duo masterfully enact a slapstick routine — it seems so effortless and natural, yet must take extreme concentration and practice. Clowning is serious business, people. Wakenshaw especially excels here with his lanky and expressive frame, but Duncan is a veteran himself, and also excels at that quintessential NZ talent: writing and performing funny rap songs.
Describing Different Party here is to somewhat do it a disservice. So much of the show's appeal stems from experiencing the comedic excellence of Wakenshaw and Duncan in the flesh, where their infectious energy is sure to make their maiden run of the astounding comedy a Fringe favourite for years to come.