BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

13/07/2021 - 17/07/2021

Production Details

Tap Head comes to Wellington
presented in partnership with BATS theatre

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a tap? Barnie Duncan has… a lot. 20 years ago he started drawing a character with a tap for a head and now that character has come to life – with a souped-up show mixing physical comedy, mime, stand-up, animation and surreal theatre to create a truly unique hour of entertainment.

Click here for a wee taste of the show…

“Distinctive and beautifully absurd… Just the sort of boundary-nudging work that comedy festivals should be encouraging”– Chortle UK

Tap Head explores the life of a lonely tap who works in a public toilet, a tap who also frequents open mic nights to test out his jokes. Spliced together with actual stand-up from non-tap Barnie Juancan, this show is a wonky meditation on plumbing, loneliness and amateur comedy nights.

Barnie is a gifted creator and performer who has delighted audiences around the world with his kooky characters and absurdist takes on the quotidian. Having collected a slew of international awards for his artistic efforts, he is thrilled to be part of the Co-Pro season at BATS, a theatre dear to his heart, where he won his first comedy award back in 2004.

“Barnie Duncan exquisitely takes comedy to a whole other level. Tap Head is not only out of the box, it is completely unmissable.” – NZ Entertainment Podcast

BATS Theatre, The Dome
13 – 24 July 2021
The Difference $40
Full Price $25
Group 6+ $22
Concession Price $20
Student Night Special $15

Written & Performed by Barnie Duncan
Directed by Katy Maudlin

Sound Design by Daniel Nixon
Lighting Design by Kaitlyn Johnston
Animated by Caiden Jacobson
Operated by John Banks
Produced by Anna Groot 

Theatre ,

1 hr

Evokes empathy, compassion, admiration and quite a few chuckles

Review by John Smythe 14th Jul 2021

Can it really be eight years since I last saw Barnie Duncan perform, as the ultra-suave and very sexy Juan Vesuvius from Venezuela in Calypso Nights? Now here he is not so much reaching the heights of that titular mount as plumbing the depths of being a tap. A cold tap. Tapping a vein of loneliness.  

But first, he has merged his good Kiwi self with his alter-ego to become Tap Head’s headline act: Barnie Juancan, stand-up comedian who plumbs the depths of ‘dad jokes’. Note that ‘depth’ can denote profundity or banality and this show balances on the fulcrum of pathos and bathos.

It takes an especially skilled performer to pull it off – yes, juvenile innuendo is present and incorrect – and Duncan-cum-Juancan makes it work. He is also politically on-point, by the way, with observations about Brazilians in general and Jair Bolsanaro in particular. Let’s just say pubic hair and public Jair are involved in close shaves that should concern us all.

Duncan/Juancan has the comic timing to make the corniest joke sound good to the ear, albeit abetted by stings of cha-cha to which he grooves with the coolest of rhythmical moves. Mind you he has to earn them and there comes a time when their absence accentuates the loneliness of the stand-up comedian.

Daniel Nixon’s sound design also gives us ambient street, club and public toilet sounds and a recurring thunder-lightning-rain storm wherein lighting designer Kaitlyn Johnston exploits the potential of the BATS Dome’s eponymous dome brilliantly. As for Caiden Jacobson’s projected black-and-white animations, they establish the comical genre and capture the moods superbly.

All these elements, as directed by Katy Maudlin and produced by Anna Groot, and operated by John Banks, come together to transcend the component parts like, well, good plumbing. Of course we tend to take good plumbing for granted when it works well but with this show it’s a pleasure to be conscious of it.

The Tap itself may be interpreted as the surrogate of the alter-ego. Who can say what draws a creative person to meditate on the loneliness of a cold tap in a public toilet with only a chrome mound for company, where the hot tap should be? Whether the tap is dripping or gushing, it’s still alone despite its fleeting usefulness. Yes the visual image is surreal (and well-timed alongside Te Papa’s Surrealist Art Exhibition just down the road) but this team makes its import very real.

Barnie Juancan’s ‘dad joke’ riffs, however – alternately introduced with “Let me tell you a bit about myself” and “I’m sorry I was late, but …” – are increasingly surreal and I have to commend Auckland-based (I think) Barnie Duncan for going the proverbial extra mile to locate this iteration of Tap Head securely in Wellington. The Tap’s home base is near Waitangi Park, and he places a series of ingeniously whimsical stories at the intersections of Abel Smith and Taranaki, Victoria and Manners, not to mention Race and Gender.

As for his mime and dancing skills, they, along with the production values of Tap Head, offer a riveting counterpoint to a character who is, ostensibly, a bit of a loser. We may not laugh uproariously but there is alchemy in the way the efforts of a weakly joking comedian and a lonely cold tap evoke our empathy and compassion – along with admiration and quite a few chuckles. 


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