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Sorry stand-ups. I know you worked your little hearts out this year writing those elegantly crafted jokes. But the funniest show I saw in 2014 was largely wordless. ‘Kraken’, by New Zealander mime artist Trygve Wakenshaw, is a pretty much flawless hour of one-man skits and physical stream-of-conciousness. Luckily for us Londoners, Wakensaw’s bringing the show to our city just as the January blues settle in.
In the show, Wakenshaw’s character is gleefully naive, and encourages audience members to embrace their frivolous sides. Without any props, the gawky performer performs a succession of stupid one-man skits. ‘Childish sides are great,’ says Wakenshaw. ‘We live with all these impulses that we learn to ignore, for usually pretty well-deserved reasons. But it’s a shame that they don’t get followed, because they can often take you to funnyland.’
I don’t mean red noses and big shoes. Since Doctor Brown won the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2012, clowning – in the ‘bouffon’ sense of the term, a sort of anti-clown, mixing charm and playfulness with often grotesque scenes – has become the hippest genre on the comedy circuit. Like Brown, Wakenshaw trained at the acclaimed Philippe Gaulier clowning school, which has churned out tons of superb performers. Apart from comedy nerds, audiences sometimes take some convincing that clowning isn’t totally lame. Or as Wakenshaw puts it, ‘Clowning is as hip as hamburgers. Sure, there are some seriously gourmet, incredible hamburgers out there, but the general public still just thinks about McDonalds.’
Wakenshaw won’t be in London for long. ‘I don’t have a home,’ he explains. ‘I’ve reduced my life down to about 30 kilograms of luggage and a violin – which I carry around the world hoping that one day I will learn it – so that I can be anywhere.’ He travels the globe performing rubber-limbed lunacy, and this is merely a brief stop-off.
Fine. Put simply, in the show, Wakenshaw gets his shlong out. There. I’ve said it. Is that what will finally convince you to go, guaranteed nudity? How crude! But you’re in luck with ‘Kraken’. ‘The first time I did that act was in Auckland at a scratch night in front of friends,’ says Wakenshaw. ‘I was horribly nervous. Then it happened, everyone laughed, and I didn’t worry about it again.’