Welcome to the world of Squidboy. He’s a squid who likes to eat things. He also likes to make friends. Sometimes he combines the two.
I want to say just enough in this review that I don’t give away any big spoilers, or unexpected plot twists (of which there are many), but give you just a glimpse into this world of “unfathomable delights” that’ll have you hooked.
If you choose just one thing at this years’ Comedy Festival, and you wanted to see something different, it should be this. It’s a blend of comic theatre and mime - a kind of physical comedy that’s filled with childlike silliness and keeps going off on tangents. Those of you who saw Doctor Brown at last year’s Comedy Festival will already be fans of this kind of randomness. But Squidboy is different as Wakenshaw does talk to us during his show. Sometimes to state the obvious, like at one point when he moos and says “It’s a cow”.
Wakenshaw is a Gaulier-trained clown, which compelled me to look up the website for this famous clown school in France – Ecole Philippe Gaulier. It must be an amazing place to learn clowning if this is the end result.
Squidboy takes you on a surreal journey through key moments in his and the fisherman’s life as they try and decide which one is real, and which one is imaginary. They have a few encounters, allowing for brilliant character swaps and costume changes.
Squidboy’s first trick is to feed us ghost chips. He might not know that’s a thing here, but even if you’re not in on the joke it works beautifully. The audience participation now well taken care of, he moves on with the show. Squidboy lives in a world where everything cost two pounds (how convenient), and encounters lots of new friends and pets, including a really sweet dog, which leads to the longest game of fetch you’ve ever seen. You will laugh at his subtle but very telling facial expressions. Just one slight squint of the eyes tells you when you’ve laughed in the wrong place.
You will marvel at his dancing skills, his spindly agile limbs, his sweating knees, and his overall ease of movement. There are exquisite moments of slow motion during a dramatic scene where he’s tempted by a fateful sandwich, but all goes well. This is a delightfully playful, silly, and often hungry journey for both Squidboy and the audience. By the end, I feel we’ve travelled the land of Trygve Wakenshaw’s imagination, as much as our own, and ended up in a safe place after all.
It does make me curious to see that darker side of that imagination in the follow up show ‘Kraken’ that’s also on this week. If I make it to that I’ll be sure to report back.
Greg Bruce - Metromag.co.nz'But it’s cleverly constructed, brilliantly original and he’s so assured in his ability to elicit laughter that you will wonder why you thought seeing another stand-up was the safe choice...'open/close
But then the lights came up and Wakenshaw, dressed as a strange fisherman, with his arms outstretched, said: “Once,” and used his face and body to elicit a laugh from that meaningless utterance, and my wife and I both relaxed and so did the rest of the audience. We knew we were in safe hands.
Almost nothing is as important at a comedy show as having trust in the performer to make you laugh. If you trust them, you can relax, and if you relax, they can relax, because you are more likely to laugh, and that makes them more likely to make you laugh.
Squidboy is not new. Wakenshaw performed it to acclaim at the Auckland Fringe last year. It’s plenty weird, with its central ‘fisherman dreaming of being a squid / squid dreaming of being a fisherman’ conceit. But it’s cleverly constructed, brilliantly original and he’s so assured in his ability to elicit laughter that you will wonder why you thought seeing another stand-up was the safe choice.
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There’s something mesmerizing about the way Trygve Wakenshaw moves. In the same way a Slinky bouncing down the stairs seems unbelievably human as a child, the things he does with his body often seem impossibly alien.
Squidboy – running back-to-back with Kraken, Wakenshaw’s other must-see show at the Herald Theatre – is absurd physical comedy at its best. Trained by French master clown Philippe Gaulier, Wakenshaw manages to construct sets, props and characters almost entirely inside the audience’s imagination. In doing so, he tells the story of a fisherman who dreams he’s a squid (or perhaps, a squid who dreams he’s a fisherman) aided only by some basic costuming and subtle lighting and sound design.
Key to Squidboy’s success is Wakenshaw’s audacious charm, which seduces the audience into his quite ridiculous world. Indeed, if it’s his body that constructs the show, it’s his infinitely expressive face that draws the audience in with knowing glances and asides that understate the genius of his miming.
Wakenshaw cleverly begins the show by conducting a hilariously drawn-out induction in which he feeds audience members from a mimed packet of chips. He watches on encouragingly while each person obligingly crunches at thin air, and before long has the entire audience munching away. It’s an absurd moment that feels a bit like a clowning class, but which subtly engages the audience’s imagination for what’s to follow.
The pure joy of watching such committed physical comedy and being drawn into Squidboy’s world allows Wakenshaw to use jokes and gags that might seem base elsewhere. One of the funniest moments of the show has him trapped in a lift with a farting dog while he tries to chat up the woman on the other end of the emergency phone. Elsewhere, he attempts to clean a cow’s anus while dry retching. It all seems ridiculous now, but it makes so much sense at the time.
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.
Trygve Wakenshaw presents Squidboy is an enchanting tale about a fisherman or a squid, or a fisherman and the squid, or the fisherman having squid problems, or vice versa. Either way, it’s one sweet story delivered by one guy with a huge imagination.
Selected as one of Rhys Darby’s must see shows for NZICF ’14 (in an interview we conducted with him earlier), this show is ‘off the hook’ in a oddly cute and strange way. You’ll be charmed by the absurd behaviour and odd noises coming from what appears to be a man dealing with a split personality to find you have been deep in his fantasy all along.
You know the saying “seeing is believing”? In this case it’s ‘believing is seeing’. Trygve reignites our childhood instincts to use our imagination, breathing life into the pretend and turning his invisible characters into very real beings seen in our minds. The first spell was cast from the very moment he interacted with his first audience member. Puzzled and compelled to crunch on air (crisps) as everyone anticipated was when our shackles broke, bringing down the barrier that separated performer and viewer. What came after that was great glee and delight as every viewer had the chance to participate, unite and eat imaginary crisps and for some, other things…
The only props he used were the clothes on his back (then floor) and one very real looking chair. Everything else was created using his ability to mime and make sounds. Not an easy thing to do, it takes courage to act around nothing, especially in front of people. I was a juggler when I was 11, not my current profession and miming was one of the things we had to do, it isn’t easy! As the show approached it’s end Trygve juggled between roles of fisherman and squid, we start to question who he actually is until the very end. In his final scene we watched in mourning as he rips his fantasy to shreds but he concludes with a message that you can’t kill your imagination, and what a sweet saying to end on.
What sets this show apart from others is that it’s highly imaginative, charming and enchanting, I recommend and encourage you to see this show! The show is on till Saturday the 17th May at the Herald Theatre, Auckland.
A double-billing of Squid Boy and Kraken had my face and belly aching. Trygve Wakenshaw’s two hilarious shows are easily the funniest things I’ve seen so far in the festival. This man is a master.
It’s mime in so far as there is little talking, very few props and a surprisingly detailed world crafted from gesture and the odd sound. But, I worry that the word ‘mime’ doesn’t capture it. It’s enlightening knowing he trained with Gaulier, the master of theatre clown who is responsible for training the likes of Sacha Baron-Cohen, Emma Thompson and Simon McBurney (of Theatre de Complicite). Le Jeu or ‘the game’ is fundamental to his teachings, the child-like playfulness and pleasure is explored beautifully by Wakenshaw.
The shows are similar in style but quite different in format, Squid Boy being slightly more narrative (though only very loosely so). Kraken is, you feel, all the things Trygve does best in a free for all format which is fast, irreverent and probably my favourite of the two. His mimes meld hilariously and seamlessly into each other, for a wacky one hour rollercoaster. They are both dark and playful, poignant and ridiculous.
I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. PLEASE go see it.
See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/05/16/trygve-wakenshaw-squidboy-and-kraken-5-stars/#sthash.arWvkDwe.dpuf