Clowning Artist Trygve Wakenshaw speaks to Theatrefullstop about performing at Mayest 2016!

Nautilus (c) Fraser Cameron smlSince 2013, multi award winning artist Trygve Wakenshaw has delighted theatre fans with his unique brand of comedy. The modern day clown, Wakenshaw is not at all afraid of challenging the theatrical norm, presenting a range of carefully crafted skits that transport you into his weird and wonderful world of colourful characters. With his works, Squidboy, Kraken and currently Nautilus all receiving rave reviews, Wakenshaw is a force to be reckoned with. Ahead of this year’s Mayfest, based in Bristol, Theatrefullstop were able to speak to Wakenshaw about working with the great Philippe Gaulier, his inspirations for his latest piece Nautilus, and he offers advice to aspiring clowning artists.Hi Trygve, you’ll be performing at this year’s Mayfest with your latest show
Nautilus, how are you feeling ahead of the event?

Hi! I’m feeling good. It’s been a while since I saw springtime, the past three years I’ve been in Australia and New Zealand at this time where it is getting colder and wetter and gloomier. England does springtime really well. Spring is funny because lambs are the happiest little guys. Also girls, lambs are the happiest little girls too.

Nautilus is a comedic, mime fuelled, eclectic piece of theatre. What
inspired the creation of it?

The hooks that I found to hang my theatrical coat on were my recent decision to eat veganistically, and my growing fear of judgement. In KRAKEN (my previous show) I was pretty cruel to a bundle of animals for the sake of comedy, it’s still a funny idea to be mean to a cute and well meaning, innocent creature but I wanted to turn the joke around so that it is the perpetrator of that cruelty who is the butt of the joke. The animals have their revenge.

KRAKEN was also a little bit of a cult success, and making a follow-up show was one of the most difficult creative processes I’ve undergone. Looking at the show now I can see my bitterness towards critics, other comics, comedy as a form of entertainment, the audience.
This makes it sound like a really heavy show, it’s not really, just the impulse behind was heavy.

You’ve been on tour with Nautilius since the beginning of this year, where
you most notably performed at the London International Mime Festival to sold
out crowds. What’s been the audience reaction to the piece so far? How does
it make you feel?

It’s more widely accessible than KRAKEN was, and it’s more technically competent. I feel like I’m getting stronger as a performer and a maker. Now, I feel good, there are more shows I want to make and more people I want to work with. I think that this is really just the start of something beautiful.

You are a multi award winning performer, picking up the Best Performance
award at the Aukland Fringe 2014 for your first piece, Squidboy. You also
won the Underbelly Edinburgh Award in Adelaide and also the Fred Award at
the NZ International Comedy Festival. How does it feel to be acknowledged in
this manner for your work?

It’s great. It opens doors. But, the pressure of an audience who arrive to see you with certain expectations in their minds was a huge struggle for me. It is easy to take risks and be wild and experiment and win big or fail hard when you have nothing to lose but now I have a “reputation” to maintain. That reputation was built on doing all the things that I now am scared to do. I worry that I will make safer and more accessible work, but will never attain the heights of greatness which only risk can propel you towards. Risking to show the audience something they’ve never seen before, the untested joke which may be the worst thing ever, but just might be the greatest joke of all time. I now have to work smarter, by following what my instincts suggest rather than letting my thoughts get in the way. I work smarter by using my brain less.

Your pieces are also noted for following a nautical theme in terms of title,
is there a particular reason for this?

It just seemed like a good idea.

In terms of your comedic style, you most definitely have a distinctive
quality to how you perform. Are you inspired by any particular performers?
Comedians? Theatre makers?

In no particular order my inspirations include: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati, Julian Cottereau, James Thieree, Steve Martin, The Muppet Show, Ren and Stimpy, Barnie Duncan, Contemporary dance, Jim Carrey, Moby Dick: or The Whale, “alternative” music of the ’90s, Doctor Brown, Looney Tunes, Red Leap Theatre, Mummenschanz.

Your training before establishing a successful comic career has seen you
learn from the very best in the world of clowning, Philippe Gaulier. How was
it learning from such an esteemed practitioner?

Incredible. One could try to write a very long essay on what learning from Philippe was like, but I will try to put it more simply. Philippe really doesn’t teach technique, I left his school feeling no more technically competent than I had been before, but he has a way to push you and twist you and pull you into a moment of being the most pure form of yourself at the height of your humanity open and alive onstage with the audience in the palm of your hand. And once you have tasted that, and know what it feels like, you spend the rest of your performing life trying to taste it again.

What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a career in clowning?

Try not to. Try to do something else. If you are a clown you will end up being a clown by the powers of nature.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Nautilus will be showing at the Wardrobe Theatre as part of this year’s Mayest from Saturday 21st until Sunday 22nd May. For more information on the production, visit here…

For more informaltion on Mayest which starts on Thursday 12th May, visit here…

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