Theatre Beating @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch
6:30pm, Sat 10 Mar 2012
After the amazingly bizarre Constantinople, I was dead set on catching one of the responsible parties, Trygve Wakenshaw, in his solo piece, Squidboy. In fact, this performance (coupled with Hard To Be A God, formed the basis of planning for this whole day… and that combination is itself odd.
But not as odd as the creative flotsam that myst be floating around Wakenshaw’s head… because Squidboy is, once again, quite eccentric.
Squidboy – Wakenshaw with a ludicrous hat – opens proceedings with a few squid factoids, then asks the audience to imagine him in a room. In comes an imaginary bird, a cow, a sheep… no, wait, that’s another bird in disguise. Wakenshaw narrates, thinks aloud, and makes noises for all the inhabitants of the room… and in comes Pooch the dog. Bark bark!
“Ink!” Trygve yells, and the lights drop to blackout.
The lights come back up, and Squidboy disposes of the imaginary creatures in his imaginary room. The scene shifts; suddenly Squidboy is swimming with his mortal enemy, The Whale, before he is inadvertently caught by a fisherman. A minor costume change as the fisherman becomes the narrator; he spins a tale in which a boy finds a giant squid apparently dead on a beach. Dashing to tell everyone in his village, they all return to see the creature, only to discover that the squid had merely been sleeping… and had thence gone for ice cream.
…and right about now, the Bizarre-o-meter in my brain just switched off. To protect itself from overloaded damage.
Squidboy finds himself in an elevator, and creates an imaginary girlfriend: the Emergency Elevator Voice (which is actually another squid called Susan). After Susan moves to Mexico, Squidboy and Pooch decide to drive over to see her, and up being chased by bagpipe-wielding Scots on chariots.
With a flurry of limbs and crashing sounds, Squidboy destroys all this imaginary stuff he’s created. His manner changes; it’s Trygve now, and he explains that he’s really just an actor with some bits of fleecy fabric for a costume. It threatens to get a bit meta, but then – with the assistance of some audience suggestions – he creates an imaginary lounge room on stage. And destroys that too.
Suddenly, with a confetti-dropping flourish (“a gift of love and imagination”), the show is over.
And you know what? I actually felt a little bit sad when it was over, but I couldn’t quite figure out why. It was like there was some strange subversive poignancy niggling my heart-strings while my brain was being assaulted by the imagination of a madman.
But Trygve Wakenshaw is an extremely talented madman. As a comical actor, he is superb: long, gangly limbs make his physical theatrics (and occasional interpretive dance) incredibly easy to smile at, and his sense of comic timing is superb. And there’s no doubting his sense of imagination and fun, though I’m struggling to figure out who his ideal audience would be: kids would love the noisy over-acting and nutty nature, but it would take an adult’s mind to really appreciate the full extent of the wackiness on offer.
Look – is this the tightest performance I’ll ever see? Hell no – I’m not even convinced there’s much of a script, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Squidboy was just a couple of checkpoints and a sixty-minute finish-line. But when you can see someone get on stage and be so bizarrely creative… well, that just makes me feel that everything’s right with the world. But the fact that Squidboy was witnessed by only a mere handful of people this evening breaks my heart… I can ride a real emotional rollercoaster sometimes.