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Print Version

Written and performed by Trygve Wakenshaw
presented by Theatre Beating

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 17 Apr 2013 to 20 Apr 2013
[55 mins]

Reviewed by John Smythe, 18 Apr 2013

Every now and then a show turns up that is indescribable, not because I couldn't relate what happens but because to do so would not capture its essence. Trygve Wakenshaw extraordinary Squidboy is such a show.

With comedy it's wrong in so many ways to try to explain a joke. It would be equally counter-productive to attempt an analysis of how and why Wakenshaw's clowning works according to the principles espoused by École Philippe Gaulier, where he studied for two years.

Perhaps I could venture to suggest that while clowning according to Jacques Lecoq – with whom Gaulier studied and for whom he taught before setting up his own school – tends to be more rooted in a humanistic character grown from discovering one's ‘personal clown', the Gaulier approach allows for greater abstraction and childlike whimsy in exploring the simple joys of playing with our infinite imaginations.  

This is certainly what Wakenshaw achieves, grounded in that essential ingredient of connecting with his audience and keeping us engaged in his imaginative realm no matter how illogical, absurd or apparently random his story-telling becomes.

Yes, it does begin – once he finds his voice – with “Once upon a time …” And it does grow from a logical premise: the reality of a dream state where you don't know whether you are, for a different example, a hunter dreaming you are a gazelle or vice versa.

In contrast to his stolid – if knife-fearing – Fisherman, the childlike nature of Wakenshaw's Squidboy does include moments that could be construed as mindless violence. Or are they simply a convenient way of dispensing with something in order to move on to something else? Are we dealing with sociopathic humour here or are we simply liberated by the freedoms of imagination? The very last moment of the show pretty well answers that question – and you will have to see it to get it.

From the moment Squidboy shares his imaginary yet crunchy victuals with his audience we buy right into his world, and this is sustained right through to the collective “Oohh …” we utter at the dissolution of … a character we have come to believe in.

Birds, a dog, a cow and someone called Susan join him in his journey through a wide range of locations and states of being, abetted by the astute lighting and sound operation of Grace Morgan-Riddell, whose good timing is equally important.

Of the many amusing, whimsical, ridiculous and often stunning moments packed into the hour, Wakenshaw's extraordinarily accurate lip-syncing to a French song is among the most memorable for me (perhaps because lip-synching is not a skill I normally rate that highly).

In ways that add greatly to the entertainment value of Squidboy, Wakenshaw often draws attention to the ‘make believe' game and almost literally deconstructs it, and himself, at the end.

A wonderfully entertaining hour of whacky whimsy, Squidboy is also an exemplary display of the art of Gaulier-inspired clowning. It's only on until Saturday and not to be missed.
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