Barnie Duncan in … him

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

16/09/2014 - 20/09/2014

The Audio Foundation, Poynton Terrace, Auckland

03/03/2013 - 07/03/2013

Auckland Fringe 2013

Production Details


A solo performance opening March 3rd examining the curious life of an eccentric recluse, who through hoarding stacks of newspaper has constructed a skewed and intriguing view of the outside world. The performer and devisor Barnie Duncan spent some time living in a shed with nothing but newspaper as research for the work.

In a dusty corner of the Auckland CBD, you will enter the basement dwelling of Him, a recluse who lives obsessively through his only connection with the outside world – the daily newspaper he is delivered via a slot in his door.

Multi-award winning actor and musician Barnie Duncan presents a startling, beautiful, and ultimately uplifting portrait of a complex man as an audience sits privy to the rituals of solitude and hope, unlocking the chamber of a private world in pursuit of escape.

Barnie Duncan has a background in devising theatre that challenges traditional narrative based work. His company Theatre Beating has produced several award winning physical comedy shows in New Zealand, and have toured internationally with the critically acclaimed lunatic history lesson ‘Constantinople’.

‘…him.’ is the company’s first foray into non-comedic work, and debuted at this years Melbourne Fringe Festival, resulting in critical acclaim and an extended season at the legendary underground venue ‘Tuxedo Cat.’

Barnie collaborated with an Australian team to create the work, including director Kat Henry, and musician Beatrice Lewis who composed an original score for the piece using cello and tactile recordings of newspaper.

A room at the Audio Foundation will be transformed into the private quarters of a hoarder. The audience will feel like they are sitting in the innermost chamber of a very curious man. Immersion is a key word in the set and sound design of this show.

“Fascinating… refreshingly inventive” – The Age

“..poignant and intriguing… a breathtaking piece of art” **** – Musings & Mutterings

“Duncan produced an amazing array of emotions within the audience” – The Melbourne Arts Club

Auckland Fringe runs from 15 February to 10 March 2013. For more Auckland Fringe information go to 

…HIM plays
3rd – 7th March, 7pm Duration: 1 hour
Venue: The Audio Foundation, Poynton Terrace, Auckland CBD
Tickets: Adults $15, Child $12, Group $12, Conc $12
Bookings: iTicket – or 09 361 1000 



Recently returned from a whirlwind month in Edinburgh, award winning performer Barnie Duncan is setting himself a lofty challenge by restaging his touching Melbourne Fringe hit …him, at The Basement.

The show changes each night, depending on what is in today’s paper … and it just happens to be the week leading up to the general election. 

…him has toured to critical acclaim in Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland. In 2013 it won the top Auckland Fringe Festival’s Fringe Award. This is the first staging of the production inside a theatre, and Theatre Beating are excited about transforming the upstairs space of The Basement into the cluttered home of a hoarder.

“it is simply a breath-taking piece of art.” 4 stars Muse & Mutter, Melbourne

“…Him is a fascinating one-man show, and refreshingly inventive.” The Age, Melbourne

“This exquisitely formed production presents us with a glimpse of an uncommon life… The season is short – don’t miss it.” 4 stars – InDaily, Adelaide 

“it’s so clever and intense. It’s funny, and sad and unsettling and beautiful and hopeful.” – The Daily Blog, Auckland

…him plays
Dates: 16th – 20th September 2014, 8pm
Venue: The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD
Tickets: $20, $18 and $10 if you donate 10 papers booking fees may apply
Bookings:  or

Contemplative study of introspective isolation

Review by Nik Smythe 18th Sep 2014

Entering the room to discover the walls and ceiling almost entirely clad with countless copies of the New Zealand Herald, to be precise, comprising every section of hundreds of copies, we’re placed in the here and now with thousands of recent headlines. Anyone not in a coma knows just how juicy they’ve been with of late, halfway through election week with all rhetoric-type guns blazing. 

Softly lit by a handful of paper-shaded standard lamps, it feels more like an odd sort of party as people take their places on various recent local news-wrapped multi-level rostra lining most of the walls.  We chat away until the door closes and everyone sits in nervous expectation, like we’re at a school disco. 

Out from his concealed cocoon of current affairs and into this weird, slightly awkward contained environment emerges …him.  Tenderly directed by Geoff Pinfield, Barnie Duncan’s conceptual character study delivers what it says on the box: an exquisite and immersive exploration into the reclusive world of a newspaper hoarder.  Pottering about in his stripy shirt and grotty longjohns, all he needs is his screeds of newsprint, a pen, scissors, stapler and a roll of masking tape and he’s …happy? Sustained maybe, perhaps adequately.

He’s made himself a friend to sleep with by stuffing his grubby white lab-coat with screwed-up pages, but frustrated by it’s unresponsiveness he shakes out the paper and wears the coat instead.  Suddenly the paper is delivered, propelled forcibly through the slot in the door and landing in the middle of the room.  Regarding it with apprehension and uncertainty, he nervously unfolds and refolds the paper repeatedly, demonstrating his obsessive compulsion that will come to manifest in a number of ways during the hour-long study of introspection.

Never breaking the fourth wall to my recollection, he talks to himself, to the papers (particularly certain persons he cuts out to be his friend, if not something deeper), and to some kind of imagined audience. Fluent in all the languages the Herald speaks in – political rhetoric, lifestyle gossip, advertising jargon et al – he offers some considerable insight into the mindset of someone whose entire comprehension of the world is formed from a single daily publication. Along the way his various newspaper-based constructions and costumes bring to mind The Boy With Tape on His Face, albeit his reclusive autistic cousin.

You really get the feeling it’s been like this for a very long time, not only from doing the maths with the sheer quantity of issues but also just observing the degree to which his erratic mind has spiralled in on itself – always somehow making its way back to today’s cryptic crossword. He seems so interminably entrenched it’s hard to see how the scenario can possibly advance narrative-wise, but not to give too much away, suffice to say it/he does. 

During one extended sequence of pensive contemplation, the raucous applause from the Classic comedy bar above us quite effectively contributes to the tangible sense of profound isolation.  Meanwhile, the incredible soundtrack by ‘Beatrice’ (Lewis) fittingly punctuates …him’s emotional swells and troughs with deep drawn strings and intense pulsating rhythms, eliciting a greater degree of sympathy than this aloof, pathetic character could achieve alone.


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And us

Review by Matt Baker 18th Sep 2014

Tuesday 16th September 2014: a day like no other. For one, it was the only opportunity to see that evening’s performance by Barnie Duncan. While this is always true of the transient pleasure of all theatre, it is reinforced in …him, as that day’s newspaper held the cryptic key to this ingenious, ever-evolving theatrical experience. I was once told to always use props twice – once for their intended use, and once for something unexpected. Duncan takes this guideline to the extreme in his one-man show that will never be the same twice – all thanks to that day’s media coverage. It is a show that Duncan declares to be very dear to him, and this is unquestionably apparent.

The irony, however, is that even with the amount of meticulous craft and consideration that must be invested for each audience, Duncan is very much in his own world as he performs. The problem that arises from this is the confusion between whether this is the result of a self-conscious (possibly even self-indulgent) performance, or the choice to purposely alienate his audience, as the latter seems incongruent with the social footprint Duncan is setting in our country’s theatre history. [More


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Deeply impressive

Review by Janet McAllister 04th Mar 2013

At the beginning of this atmospheric devised one-man show, our hero (Barnie Duncan) tries to get out of bed, only to be tugged back down by his affectionate companion. But this companion is odd: it is the man’s own coat stuffed full of newspaper. The man wants to be clung to, but in fact, it is the man who clings to the newspaper.

And what a suffocating amount of newspaper there is, covering walls and audience seats, and piled high on the ground. The man absorbs its print (sometimes literally, by eating it) to answer crossword clues in elaborate, Pynchonesque routines. He’s fluent in helpful newspaper-ese: “take time to know your partner”. [More]

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Impeccable physicality in captivating, articulate performance

Review by Gus Simonovic 04th Mar 2013

Last time I saw Barnie Duncan was in Constantinople, in the lavish surroundings of a swanky Edinburgh club turned into a hedonistic, orgy style ancient Greek/Roman party space.

The setting and set of … him are something completely different.  The minute I walk 3 levels down into the Audio Foundation bunker-looking space with walls and furniture completely lined with newspapers, I think: Henry Darger. In 1973 he become famous for his posthumously-discovered fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with hundreds of drawings and paintings mainly on newspaper, illustrating the story. This show isn’t about Henry though, it was about ‘… him’.

The performance begins before Barnie arrives on stage with an audience stuffed into a small box without a window, or any other contact with the ‘real world’: surrounded, cut off, walking on, sitting on, besieged, breathing, obsessed by, bound, trapped by THE media. 

The ‘he’ of … him is a reclusive newspaper hoarder. He comes out of his newspaper-made bed, hardly able to separate himself from his made-of-newspaper sleeping buddy. He puts on his newspaper-made shoes and takes us on a journey through his media-obsessed, poisoned mind.

He makes flowers and showers (the weather) out of the newspapers. He accurately calculates number of articles dedicated to topics like: lifestyle, crime, rugby, world .. in freshly delivered daily papers and makes notes of any “very important facts” that he finds in them. He makes food out of newspapers, talks to the newspapers, about newspapers, with newspapers, and most importantly: like newspapers …

… him transforms his monologue into a dialogue into a multi-logue, using that modern language that we all speak: the language of tabloid romance, weather, tragedy, politics, fake heroism, bills, horoscopes, Japanese stunt actors, waste management, sports, prices, fear, porn, obituaries, finance terrorism, genetic engineering …

He makes a portal for his escape! Newspaper-wings, Icarus style … but the real trouble starts when there is more ‘news’ delivered than he can cope with. What will he do? What would YOU do?

In my imagination, in a little less than an hour through a captivating and articulate performance, Barnie manages to deliver a live performance opus on a Henry Darger scale. His physical presence as a performer is impeccable: every movement, helped by Beatrice’s live performed soundscape, brings the story further along – making the show a pleasure to watch the show, at the Fringe, here in Auckland.

Watch out – media is everywhere! 


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