People who have seen Squidboy will be competing to find the best way to describe it. Here’s my entry: a children’s story written by David Lynch, directed by Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark) and performed by a tall, lean Zach Galifianakis. It drips with a surreal, whimsical, hipster Kiwi charm. Many find these kooky Antipodean performers irritating but there’s definitely something interesting emerging from way down there.
Squidboy is in fact the creation of Trygve Wakenshaw. Wakenshaw’s brain is very interesting. His body, too - and the way they connect is interesting. As is the way they then connect with you. He is lithe and elegant, like a dancer, and he is highly trained in physical theatre. His movement is perhaps the most extraordinary thing about his piece; subtle but articulated, his long limbs not unlike the rubbery tentacles of his alter-ego. However, Wakenshaw also uses some of the most basic kinds of slapstick humour; in fact an essential aspect to this piece is the way it mixes ‘high’ and ‘low’, in terms of subject and technique. The story could be one written for a child: a fisherman wakes up from a dream about a squid and can no longer tell whether he is squid or man. He goes on an adventure with his imaginary friends. Yet it also hits notes of real existential nuance; it isn’t being silly simply for the sake of it or to teach the audience some clichéd idea that thinking more like a child will make you happier. It’s a story about existing in a world in which others are around to share your wonder. It’s a real and sophisticated piece of art.
However, the profundity isn’t sustained enough for Squidboy to reach the transcendent qualities some are attaching to it. Whilst its childlike surface covers some intriguing complexities, it will still mostly be enjoyed as a piece of well-executed and charming physical comedy. Is it too far to call it the cult show of the Fringe? Perhaps. But only just.