Thirteen months ago, the award-winning New Zealand mime artist Trygve Wakenshaw and his wife Lisa had a baby. They called him Phinneas and now he’s a star, performing opposite—and endlessly upstaging—his father in a hilarious and heart-warming show that explores, ever so gently, ideas of performance, comedy and stagecraft.
Trygve vs a Baby is a chance for Wakenshaw to roll out another batch of his gloriously silly characters and scenarios, with Phinneas serving as a sort of punchline incarnate. Toddling into scenes in a succession of adorable costumes—baby boxing gloves, a lion’s mane and tail—his presence either enables a neat tying up of whatever gag Wakenshaw Sr. has been building or, as is more often the case, triggers an even funnier sequence in which Papa Wakenshaw cajoles his offspring into ending the scene as planned. Not all of Wakenshaw’s skits hit the mark in conceptual terms, but you can’t fault his performance – such precision is rare to see.
Writing about a father ‘using’ his son to get laughs, it’s hard not to make this caper sound a touch exploitative. But rest assured, it’s nothing of the kind – despite having eschewed an afternoon snooze today (there aren’t that many shows this Fringe that open with a nap disclaimer), Phinneas is a happy little soul and clearly enjoying both hanging out with his daddy, and the adulation of a whole theatre full of people. Warning: the joyful ending might just make you cry.