REVIEW: Trygve Wakenshaw’s Squidboy and Kraken (NZ International Comedy Festival 2014)

Good Squid

Have to be there [by James Wenley]

Good Squid
Good Squidboy

Trygve Wakenshaw’s character ponders at the top of the show if he is a fisherman, who dreamt he was a squid, or if he was a squid, who dreamt he was a fisherman. I have a question for Wakenshaw: Does he do physical clowning because he has a well-suited body, or has his body continued to grow to accommodate his physical clowning? Certainly he looks the part: all gangly and oversized limbs, as if he’s been especially stretched to maximise his comedic potential, capped by self-acknowledged sweaty knees below, and a particularly fine example of a handlebar moustache above.

We’re bemused by Wakenshaw right from the start – and he allows himself to be unsettled by our laughter, reacting to our noises. Perhaps one of Wakenshaw’s greatest skills is the way he can listen to his audience, and constantly play with our relationship to him. As we ponder his fisherman’s existential dilemma, he transforms into his squidboy character via a cute hat with round eyes and dangly squid-like tentacles. It was this costume that began the idea of the show, the inspiration for an absurd, confounding, and utterly rewarding experience.

Wakenshaw’s quite unique comic sensibility sees him riffing off little ideas and taking them into bizarre places. One of the early magic moments in the show has him miming eating a packet of “crisps” which he expands and expands in a continuing sequence, using it as a way to get us all totally on his side. He has an interesting way of using both his dialogue and mime – skilfully miming the world, but then undercutting it by naming it (“It’s a Tree”).

He’s a molllusca of contradictions: He builds, then deconstructs, investing truth in his actions than realising “oh yeah, I forgot, it’s just imaginary” and breaking his illusions. His final speech is fascinating in this area, explaining his conceit (how he made his squid costume out of a polar fleece) all the while talking to an imaginary character. His actions are both naïve and subversively nasty, as the squid consumes whatever comes into his path.

Wakenshaw weaves together an incongruous world where a squid can play fetch with a dog, sing some Jacques Brel, and be chased by Scottish bagpipe players in Mexico. By the time his squid is French kissing a hot date, I wonder, “how did we get here?” It’s a sequence of events that defies explanation. His is a free form show pulled off with remarkable control.

Above all, Wakenshaw has a wonderful sense of play, creating a child-like existence where any flights of fancy are possible. With Squidboy, you just have to be there. So make sure you do.

Kraken Good Fun [by Matt Baker]

Release the Trygve!
Release the Trygve!

Kraken appears to be the natural evolution of Squidboy [or should that be devolution? – James]. However, the absence of narrative indicates that those who haven’t seen the former will not be confused with the latter. That is, however, no reason not to see both.

Wakenshaw’s international training and experience make him a tour de force of the performing arts industry, and, in that respect, Kraken is a truly original show. Wakenshaw’s heightened sense of being, imagination, and control over his physicality, allow him to portray and deftly execute a variety of seeminglyrandom scenarios. The randomness, however, is skillfully manipulated through Wakenshaw’s seamless transitions. From the mundanity of barbequing, to the sudden childlike excitement that takes hold of the audience through a game of tag, Wakenshaw has everyone in the palm of his hand from the moment he appears on stage.

The sense of play, a fundamental component to clowning, is (occasionally shockingly) balanced with hints of sociopathic violence. However, they are equal elements of the transgressions that occur throughout Wakenshaw’s exploration of his time on stage. While the sequences of the show are inarguably entertaining and engaging, I was most impressed by both Wakenshaw’s entrance and exit, which are among the most clever I’ve ever seen.

Wakenshaw is undoubtedly a unique New Zealand performer on an international scale, and has successfully brought both clowning and mime into a more public and accessible sphere via both the 2013 Auckland Fringe and 2014 International Comedy Festivals. Dispel any preconceptions you might have on the art form, Kraken is a show that is guaranteed to entertain.

Squidboy plays at 7pm, and Kraken 9pm until 17 May at The Herald Theatre as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival 2014. 

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