The last time I gave five stars to a comedy show, it was to Dr Brown, who went on to win the Barry Award in 2012 for his bizarre brand of silent clowning.
Trygve Wakenshaw isn't quite silent. Sound effects keep slipping out - he can't help himself - but his delirious and surreal physical comedy unleashes the same kind of magnificent madness.
It starts with a brilliant set-piece - an elasticised strip-tease that cleaves to Marx's idea of history repeating itself, first as tragedy then as farce. Wakenshaw joins plastic facial features and jelly-limbed hilarity to a boundlessly absurd sensibility that follows its own zany logic. (Something like: Necessity is the mother of invention. Invention is the mother of fun. Ergo, necessity is fun's granny.)
To describe what actually happens in the show would be pointless and unjust. If you're willing to be conquered by his inspired clowning, you won't regret it.
Trygve Wakenshaw is the love child of John Cleese and Mr Bean, with Michael Leunig as his great aunt. There is no other explanation for it.
The almost surreal journey that is Kraken starts at the Grand Central Train Station that is the Tuxedo Cat nightclub, with a staff member directing groups of travellers to different venues, up and down stairs and street, until you come to the intimate space that becomes your entrance to a different world.
With gentle charm and humour, this physical mime artist draws you into his domain, using his body in ways that seem impossibly double-jointed and flexible, using only some minimal props, and his prodigious talent.
Delightfully naïve, with a hint of sexuality, Wakenshaw will charm every one of his viewers as he flies seamlessly from one cameo to the next, and all the time keeping the audience entranced. His brilliant poseur postures echoed the circus strongman, and included every archetype of mimicry associated with this, resulting in a multilayered, meaningful performance.
Searching for self, recognition, and partners to people his world, ultimately inclusive, Wakenshaw is a performer not to be missed.
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.
John Smythe - Theatreview.org.nz'...you will discover sampling pedals are not just confined to music; a singlet is eminently capable of becoming a TV screen; imagined magic is just as magic; any wound can be kissed better … And that's not the half of it.'open/close
The standing ovation Trygve Wakenshaw earns at the end of his 50-minute show affirms his status as a hugely admired physical comedy performer. His ‘stream of physicality' method of progressively creating whimsical images and scenarios reminds me of an animated film I once saw where an unbroken pencil line proves to be infinitely transformative.
Kraken, Wikipedia reveals, is a legendary sea monster of giant proportions that is said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland. The mythology may have arisen from actual sightings of giant squid, such as Jules Verne envisaged in 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Given last year's Squidboy, it's fair to suggest a theme is emerging – or maybe the squid motif simply captures the essence of gangly Wakenshaw's physically fluid and often floaty clown.
Given the reductive nature of his comedy it's not surprising the tentacles that try to hold him back as he enters – that he has to escape from in exquisite slow motion – are very thin indeed. Stripped to his essence, twice, and achieving redress, lycra-clad Wakenshaw is now free to explore the potential of the empty space.
Ah but this one has walls. Is he in a tank? What's this: a mic? For a moment it seems he's about to do stand-up, or sing – ah no, it's a library; a book to be read, Moby Dick no less …
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I’m not sure I’ve ever properly laughed at a mime. I’m not sure if I’ve ever even chuckled. I haven’t even laughed at a joke about a mime. So it was a special occasion last night at the Herald Theatre to be trapped for a full hour in a state somewhere between joy and fear, perpetually just-about-weeing-myself thanks to Trygve Wakenshaw.
The UK-based Kiwi klown has spent the last couple of years honing the follow-up to his award winning Squidboy, and while Kraken may not dilly-dally with any pretense to plot or even surrealist narrative like its predecessor, its vignettes are all loosely glued together with a delightfully silly logic. Where the former dished out absurdist monologues to tell its tale, Kraken comes armed with a demented combo of silence and whispered muttering, consistently eliciting the kind of prolonged laughter the likes of which one-liner comedians could never hope to invoke.
While it may stretch the imagination to picture a silent, physical comedy that is at once grotesque and terrifying, it is precisely Trygve Wakenshaw’s ability to delimit his own imagination that has allowed this show to exist. Kraken knows no sensible boundaries; from absurdist (and silent) takes on the now-dull trend of loop pedal music-making, to self-boxing, bird-feeding, outfit-shedding – and, oh! – the things you can do with a unicorn horn!
Limbs akimbo, like a rubber praying mantis having huffed from the wrong exhaust, Mr Wakenshaw prances, dances and entrances, his wide eyes petitioning his audience for approval. Audience participation takes on a whole new meaning, with murder, invisible glue, and extreme kissing-it-better never far around the corner; it’s impossible not to be drawn into the fanciful set of games our child-like jester insists we play.
It’s been a while since (in my world) there has been such an obvious call for a standing ovation; Kraken is a triumphant piece – or set of pieces – of inane glee, by a man who is truly a clown of the highest order.
Trygve Wakenshaw is extraordinary. He is tall and lanky, and uses this to his advantage as he unleashes some of the most elegant physical comedy upon the audience. He knows how to use every single bone in his body to draw laughs; it is mind-blowing to watch. The sound effects that Wakenshaw makes accompany the physical ridiculousness magnificently. He gallops round the stage, pretending to be a horse one minute, the next he is playing a both a baby bird and its mother who brings it breakfast. An outstanding comedian who will not fail to surprise you.
What is appropriate to write about is the creator and performer of these shows, Trygve Wakenshaw. I’ve seen a lot of attempts at clowning, and some very good clowns have made their way through this country, but I don’t think anybody I’ve seen has mastered the art of clowning quite like this man. He is flat-out genius. The way Wakenshaw transitions from character to character, situation to situation, and engages the audience is unparalleled. He had the audience of the Herald eating out of his hand, almost literally. There is a reason why both these shows have won awards throughout the country and the world: they are beyond brilliant, they are genius. If you are even slightly inclined to see them, wherever you are, stop reading this and go and see them.
Kraken is the show that was new to my eyes. Even though it is stylistically different from Squidboy, there is no narrative—we simply watch Wakenshaw engage in play with himself and his audience for an hour. Which in itself does not sound particularly great, but again, so much of the pleasure in Kraken is in seeing it rather than talking about it. There is something profound about the ease in which he gets an entire audience on his side and willing to engage in the show, often physically. Squidboy is great, but Kraken is the piece of work that will stay with me for a long time. It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen onstage, possibly ever.
Put simply: Wakenshaw is a genius. See this. See everything he does. There are no excuses.
From his first appearance on stage, Trygve Wakenshaw has the audience in violent fits of laughter. He’s trying to reach the opposite corner of the stage but is held back by a few ropes, and his intuitive attempts to escape are hilarious. It’s all so simple, so mad and childlike, but so precise and disciplined. Mining the content for deeper meaning is fruitless; unicorns, dance parties, eagles, William Tell; it’s all geared towards getting us playing with him. As the piece continues, Wakenshaw’s virtuosity becomes the strongest through line.
If last year’s Squidboy was about sending us out of the theatre ready to look at the world with playful eyes, Kraken gets us to this place faster. By the end of our time with the Kraken we are literally playing games with him. A crazy adventure working where theatre works best.
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