Peter Pan has nothing on Trygve Wakenshaw. This New Zealand mime artist and solo star of Kraken is the real boy who never grew up. Yes, physically, he’s an adult male: he’s tall, gangly and has stolen Michael Fassbender’s face. But this inventive talent’s mind is brimming with childlike silliness.
Wakenshaw – an alumnus of the acclaimed Philippe Gaulier clowning school – works in a prop- and largely word-less environment. He can do whatever he pleases in the world he creates around him, no matter how ludicrous, gruesome or downright stupid. His spontaneous mind works on a do-something-silly-without-thinking-about-the-consequences basis. No action is forgotten, no mimed-prop just disappears, so when the gawky comic’s naïve character decides to swallow a horn he’s just cut off a unicorn, well, he’s got himself into quite a pickle, hasn’t he?
Wakenshaw’s physicality is flawless. He’s like a human Stretch Armstrong, contorting his rubbery body to adopt each absurd character, from a retching bird feeding its young to a boxer who takes a pummelling. But it’s his underplayed facial expressions that get the biggest laughs. Every innocent grin or knowing nod to the crowd is timed to perfection and he oozes charm, so when he approaches audience members to play a childish game of tag or kiss his mimed injuries better, it’s with a joyful playfulness, and everyone’s willing to play along.
Comparisons to fellow Gaulier graduate Doctor Brown – who won the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2012 in the same venue as Kraken – are inevitable. But whereas Brown has a sinister edge behind his persona, Kraken is totally innocent, even at its most sexual or gross-out. It’s like watching a live cartoon, where Wakenshaw is his own animator who quickly sketches himself new props and scenes through his inspired clowning skills. When he does speak it’s in cartoonish bursts, adding more guileless daftness to his imaginative sketches.
Kraken is a blissfully funny hour of physical stream-of-consciousness and a joyous excuse to embrace your childish side. And there’s no pixie dust required.
‘Kraken’ is at Underbelly, Cowgate, 8.40pm