Constantinople [FringeTIX]
Theatre Beating @ The Campanile
10:15pm, Sun 19 Feb 2012
As the assembled throng – maybe thirty people, all up, though I noticed a number of media badges – file into The Campanile, Trygve Wakenshaw – tall, bearded, and toga-bound – engages us in small-talk, offering us grapes (“the international symbol of the orgy,” he later tells us). The fruit is plump, delicious, but I almost choke when Trygve compliments my hair. “Oh,” I stammer, “what do you like about it?” He flashes a smile: “The colour… it shimmers,” he says, and they’ve got me on-side before I’m even in the venue.
Barnie Duncan is sitting on a lounge, reading the paper, his casual contemporary attire in stark contrast to Trygve’s toga. The house lights drop, Barnie continues reading… and ambient sounds start seeping from the speakers. Crickets, cars, footsteps, sharpening of blades… all the while, Barnie’s eyes flit to catch the source of the sound, head cocking to accentuate the effort.
This goes on for about five minutes. It’s very odd.
Alarmed by the approaching footsteps, he fashions a simple gun out of newspaper; when Trygve reappears, questioning the gun, a simple twist converts it to a necktie – Constantinople‘s motif for the Narrator. Whilst holding the tie to his neck, Barnie removes his shirt and jeans, revealing a toga underneath: he is now Constantine.
Right about now, I’ve got a genuine WTF feeling going on – but I can’t quite tell whether it’s a good WTF or a bad one. It creeps towards the dodgy side of the scale when the two toga-boys start searching around the stage – Barnie/Constantine searching for a city (but initially only finding a settee), Trygve searching for socks.
But the city is found – a garish papier-mâché diorama – and suddenly Constantinople goes WTF in the very best way possible.
Constantine, after naming the city after himself, decides to improve the city with roads and plumbing and… the LIV nightclub. And it’s in the ‘club, swept along by a ferocious DJ, that Constantine becomes a pepper-loving addict – and his open-religion policy is inspired after being hit in the head by a 12″ record.
And that all seems like standard fare for a Fringe show, right?
But this is no simple presentation: Constantinople has parallel plot line involving a horse (who changed its name from “Tremmonbeard” to “Kyle”) and a masseuse. This thread sits heavily on top of a line from the They Might Be Giants song, Istanbul (Not Constantinople) – “Why they changed it I can’t say / People just liked it better that way”.
In fact, it seems that the entire show stems from that song… and that, alone, is pretty fucking funny.
The constant use of neckties to indicate narration is a fantastic touch – they appear everywhere, hidden on the back of props or scribbled onto an autographed arm, the newspaper at the beginning… it’s baffling, but brilliant. And “baffling” is the perfect word to describe Constantinople – it’s hard to imagine where a lot of their ideas come from. But the reward is a wonderfully bizarre experience, presented with honest cheer and belief.
Oh – and remember the grapes? Don’t eat them, but keep them handy. You’ll be the star of the show ;)