I'm curious as to the ocean inspired names for his shows: Squidboy (which is quite obvious), Kraken (a legendary squid-like sea creature that is said to live off the coasts of Norway) and now Nautilus (a mollusk). However, it's more than an ocean theme running through these shows as Wakenshaw informs me, which also ends up being an apt description of himself. "It's not just ocean themed, but cephalopod themed," he explains. "Cephalopoda are squids, octopus, nautilus and cuttlefish. They are clever strange mysterious creatures. I was interested in them while I was making my first show Squidboy, after that it was just running with the theme."
Wakenshaw initially trained at École Philippe Gaulier in clowning, but gradually became interested in mime and since then has keenly developed his skills in the craft. "I've always preferred physicality and more visual comedy over word jokes, probably from watching Looney Tunes and The Muppet Show as a kid," he tells me. "I find I'm able to tell a joke, be more open and charming and sincere with my physicality than I am with words, so I drifted towards that. For me, there are more interesting things to explore with images."
Without the use of his voice and usually performing on an empty stage with minimal props, Wakenshaw still manages to create an environment where the audience readily accepts what they are seeing and happily go along for the ride. "I'm always listening to them," he says. "You can hear the audience being confused or bored or disinterested, so I just make sure I listen to them and find better ways to explain myself if they are confused, be more interesting if they are bored, or encourage them into the world if they are disinterested."
While listening to his audience is an important part of his show on the night, listening to himself is the focus when it comes to creating a show. "It's mostly trial and error. I'll take some ideas that I'm confident about or interested in and try them out in front of people," Wakenshaw explains. "If they hate it, or don't get it I will throw it away or try it again. I have a good instinct for it I think, but my brain often gets in the way. There are some things that get huge laughs that I still don't understand. Why are they laughing at that? I don't need to know."
Despite his years of experience and the calm and playful demeanour on stage, behind the scenes it's a slightly different story keeping Wakenshaw on his toes. "Ten minutes before a show I'm usually drinking water and being nervous, massaging my face, peeking out from behind the curtains to see how many people are coming to the show, and getting nervous again."
The one food I cannot live without is oranges.
My most cringeworthy moment in on stage is talking because the audience didn't understand my mime.
A movie that sums up my life is Les Enfants Du Paradis because I like it. I also like The Castle. There are a lot of great docos on Netflix at the moment too.
How many seconds before you can't eat food off the floor? This question needs to be more specific. What is the food, what is the floor, what is the context?
During MICF, I really want to see Australia open up its borders to more refugees and stop being so generally racist about everything.
Venue: The Famous Spiegeltent at Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Rd, Melbourne.
Season: 11 - 22 April | Tues - Sat 9.50pm, Sun 8:50pm
Length: 75 minutes
Tickets: $36 Full | $33 Conc | $30 Tightarse Tuesday | $28 Preview
Bookings: MICF website