I first saw Nautilus back in 2015, when it was still a 90-minute-long work-in-progress. Since then, Wakenshaw has toured it around, picked up an award nomination in Edinburgh and tightened it up to 75 minutes. It’s a hilarious, unique piece of comedic theatre that’ll have you sympathising with chickens and laughing at silent stand-up.
Wakenshaw’s use of mime is masterful, constructing detailed worlds on the stage out of thin air. The verbal language of Nautilus is limited. There’s a couple of key phrases and some animal sounds, but most of Wakenshaw’s communication is through movement. Nautilus makes you keenly aware of just how much of our language can be deduced from our physicality. A section of the show in which Wakenshaw imitates a stand-up comedian at work really highlighted this. Without telling a single joke, the audience knew exactly where the act was at, laughing at all the right beats.
There’s a meaningful moral thread that runs through Nautilus. At different points of the show, Wakenshaw tells the story of a man pursuing three animals – a sheep, a cow and a chicken. In each situation, the man is wanting to exploit the animal against its will to get its wool or milk or eggs, and you can hear the audience sympathising deeply with the animals. It’s not a subtle message – Wakenshaw is pretty clearly referencing our consumption of animal products and I suspect he’s a vegan – but it feels covert due to the delivery method. It’s a wonderful message and Wakenshaw gets it across without being preachy, and he keeps everyone in hysterics the whole way through.
Nautilus is a fabulous combination of the silly and the serious. Wakenshaw has created a really special show here that brings together the audience in a beautiful way. This is clowning and mime that plays at the top of everyone’s intelligence.
Trygve Wakenshaw’s Nautilus was on at The Famous Spiegeltent at Arts Centre Melbourne