Trygve Wakenshaw @ Tuxedo Cat – Room 5
9:45pm, Sun 2 Mar 2014
After having seen Squidboy in 2012, and again in 2013, I felt that I had a pretty good idea what I was in for with Trygve Wakenshaw’s new show. And whilst audiences that I’ve been part of have always been small, I was delighted to hear that Kraken was doing well: word-of-mouth must be getting around, and Trygve’s an amazingly likeable chap.
But whilst the previous evening had been a sell-out, there was a more frugal audience in tonight… still a respectable twenty-odd people, though, and the mood was positively bubbly before the start of the performance. And from the moment Wakenshaw takes to the stage – or tries to take to the stage – it’s clear that Kraken is going to be every bit the screw-loose comical extravaganza that Squidboy was.
You see, as Trygve tries to walk onstage, elastic bands tied to his clothing hold him back. Without words, it’s immediately conveyed that his goal is to reach a small pile of objects on the other side of the stage… but the elastic prevents him from doing so. As he strains against its constraint, you can see the lightbulb go off – he can just remove the item of clothing to which the bands are attached! But then there’s more bands, and more removals… eventually, a naked Wakenshaw reaches his objective, and his delight is palpable as he shows us what’s in the pile: an identical set of clothes.
And fuck me if that opener wasn’t the funniest thing I’ve seen in years. Tears of laughter, I’m telling you. Tears.
But it doesn’t stop there, as the audience gets involved: a paper boat (a folded Kraken poster) is whooshed around the room by the crowd; he uses a spray bottle to create stormy weather. Wakenshaw’s miming skills come to the fore with the pathos of The Archer; the sheer lunacy of The Juggler evolves (or devolves?) into an excuse to (gently) kiss most of the crowd.
And, somehow, those moments where Trygve softly wanders amongst the crowd are almost achingly tender.
But there were moments that felt… well, unplanned in Kraken, the most obvious one being when Wakenshaw decided to balance a stool on a chair in an effort to touch the roof. Once it became apparent that was his goal, the crowd egged him on, incredibly unstable structure be damned; but once he eventually touched the roof, a flicker of “…now what?” crossed his face, like he hadn’t thought that far ahead.
Then again, I thought Squidboy was largely unplanned the first time I saw it, too… maybe Wakenshaw’s just a fucking amazing actor.
There’s definitely less whimsy in Kraken than in Trygve’s previous work, but the physical humour has certainly gone up a notch or ten. His presence onstage is simply amazing, and he’s as adept as (the brilliant) Dr Brown at imparting emotion or evoking laughter with just a single raised eyebrow. There’s something softly anarchic about his creations: whilst his mannerisms and physical performance appears ever-so-gentle and (family-)friendly, his ideas – and, more cunningly, the ideas that are conjured up in your mind as a result – are dangerous… in the very best way possible.
The audience – myself included – left this performance of Kraken deliriously happy, still chuckling at the memory of events from the previous hour. Even though it was clearly an embryonic work-in-progress, Kraken was bursting at the seams with imagination, creativity, and heart… and, most importantly, it’s another outlet for Wakenshaw’s physical comedic genius. I was completely stoked to see it pick up a touring award here, and get big-arse nominations in the Melbourne and New Zealand comedy festivals… it’s utterly deserved recognition for a thoroughly brilliant performer.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 2, 2014