Trygve Wakenshaw – 'You know that old saying about never working with children? I took it as a challenge'
- Brian Donaldson
- 3 August 2017
We talk to the New Zealand comic about his two Fringe shows, one starring his theatrical partner Barnie Duncan and the other his 13 month old son
A couple of months back, footage emerged of New Zealand's Trygve Wakenshaw literally dropping the baby while rehearsing for one of his two upcoming Fringe shows. Worryingly, it was during preparations for his afternoon hour, Trygve vs a Baby rather than the evening show, Different Party. Reassuringly, the baby in question was a rubbery doll as opposed to his actual flesh-and-blood child. Phineas Wakenshaw will be 13 months old when he makes his Fringe debut in a show which is billed as Trygve attempting to prove that he can entertain people better with his mime skills and physical comedy than a cute baby can while sitting around or slowly moving about being all cute. As an example of Competitive Dad syndrome, it seems unlikely ever to be matched.
'After a couple of rehearsals, the problem seems to be not the unpredictability of him doing something amazing, the horrible bit is that quite often he won't be doing anything particularly amazing,' states Wakenshaw in mid-June while taking a break from Fringe preparations in his recently adopted home of Prague. 'I'm trying to build a show that's halfway between knowing what I'm doing and not knowing what I'm doing. In other shows where I've improvised on stage, I've been able to warm it up and there's been a bit of time so I can get to grips with the improv of the show in front of an audience. But with this, I'm essentially having to wing it on the huge platform that is Edinburgh.'
It's a platform that has previously taken Wakenshaw Senior to its heart thanks to the innovation and ingenuity of shows such as Squidboy (about the power of a celaphod's imagination) and Kraken (his depiction of a surrealistically shifting natural world). In 2015, the third part of his Underwater Trilogy, Nautilus, earned him a spot on the Edinburgh Comedy Award shortlist. 'I felt that Nautilus was a strong show and probably had the broadest appeal of my work. The hype around Kraken came from other artists and young people who were excited to see something crazy and rebellious, but with Nautilus, it was a bit different. Especially when you get nominated and people are there to judge you, sitting with their arms folded and probably thinking, "ok then, show me your good funny things that you do".'
With Trygve vs a Baby taking to the stage in a 3pm slot ('Phineas should have finished his second nap of the day between 1 and 2ish, so he's usually quite perky by 3'), papa Wakenshaw will be fully regenerated for his second gig later that day, his 8.30pm meeting with Barnie Duncan (his theatrical partner of almost 15 years) for Different Party.
The show is a satire of office life, despite neither of them having spent a huge amount of time in actual offices. 'It was us going, "what do you even do in an office?'" muses Wakenshaw. 'Barnie's girlfriend works in one and she gave us great tips about the things people say there such as, "we'll need that by C.O.B." and "who's taking minutes?" A lot of coffee gets drunk in our show. It's mainly physical but there will be some witty wordplay; there are some jokes that rely on words, but not a lot.'
By that point in the day, young Phineas should be fast asleep as he gets refreshed for another bash at winning over an expectant Edinburgh crowd. Happily, his mum was open to a notion that others might have brushed off as foolhardy. 'She didn't take much convincing, she thought it was a brilliant idea,' states Trygve. 'You know that old saying about never working with children and animals because they're so attractive to the eye that you as an actor would be absolutely upstaged? I took it as a challenge: I'm a pretty good performer, and I am fairly convinced that I am more interesting than a baby.' Time will tell, Trygve.
Trygve vs a Baby, Assembly Roxy, 5–27 Aug (not 14, 21), 3pm, £11–£12.50 (£10–£11.50). Previews 3 & 4 Aug, £8.
Trygve Wakenshaw & Barnie Duncan: Different Party, Assembly Roxy, 4–27 Aug (not 14), 8.30pm, £10.50–£12 (£9.50–£11). Previews 2 & 3 Aug, £7.