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NZ International Comedy Festival: Kraken - review

May 14, 2014 Theatre

Trygve Wakenshaw

Herald Theatre  
May 14, 2014

There’s a masterclass in the quiet arts on offer in the Comedy Festival right now, although, truth be told, while performer Trygve Wakenshaw doesn’t make much noise, his audience gets so raucous, laughing fit to bust, you fear for their underwear.

Wakenshaw is a mime, sort of. Better to say he’s a physical performer who uses little verbal squeaks and whistles, and a few words, as a sort of running accompaniment to the lithe contortions and facial elasticity that are his principal stock in trade.

Funny? My god yes. Shooting an arrow at an apple on an audience member’s head, swallowing a sword, even the simple act of running across the stage… mime routines like these are not inherently amusing, but with a performer as gifted as Wakenshaw they become ridiculously absurd. There’s a purity to his approach, a sense of classic physical comedy at work: simple ideas, very precisely realised and hilariously presented, then pushed to preposterous extremes, and then repeated, which sets up even more preposterous extremes.

In one routine he flicks between a fecklessly happy chick, all goofy grin and flapping elbows, and the daddy bird who flies in, all powerful shoulders and sweeping wings, to regurgitate supper. You haven’t seen vomiting – let alone laughed at it – till you’ve seen this effort: he practically turns his body inside out.

It’s all done with a brazen stage wink to the audience, and some delightful participation – for those who are game. You think, he suggests, that I won’t dare to go there? Oh yes I will. You think that’s enough? Oh no it’s not.

A lot of Wakenshaw’s humour resides in his devilishly confident charm, which he clearly knows, but from time to time, to his credit, he also veers towards the alarming – and that’s even funnier. Throwing knives at audience members and then kissing them better, he cajoles some surprising cooperation from the crowd. You won’t believe what part of his body one woman kissed the night I went. (Don’t worry, it really isn’t obligatory.)

He does use a few words, including the slyest joke of the night: “Has anyone seen my balls?” You’ll need to see the show to get it, because I’m certainly not going to spoil it for you here.

Wakenshaw gave us Squidboy a couple of years ago, and he’s presenting that show again as well (same venue, earlier time – see our review here). You get a choice: one brilliant hour, or a brace?


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