Wang’s performance is sensational. For all its big tech and flashing lights, the real magic is in how effortlessly he embodies these different characters. How his face and body completely contort into new shapes, without ever feeling over-laboured, or like he’s trying too hard for it. I can easily imagine the piece in its original 20 minute drama-school-grad-show form, as it’s such a showcase for its central (and only) performer.
AV and production design play a huge role in Skyduck. The show's various pieces of set are mechanical, malleable, and have screens attached to them. The set feels playful, almost like it’s made from Meccano, and is integrated effectively. These screens allow for interplay with the show's projection design, which is pushed for great comedic effect as the show plays out. The projection design itself is joyfully cobbled together from a variety of stock footage, anime, and original material. There’s an infectious silliness to how it all comes together, something that is equally as true of the show as a whole. Director Huynh keeps a strong hand on the show's reins, keeping all its disparate elements feeling cohesive, and like they inform one another.
Skyduck succeeds in lampooning international politics, and the entire action film genre, by being almost experimentally irreverent. By making those involved almost unbelievably goofy, it allows us to laugh at the parallels to real life. Global politics often feels incredibly childish, Skyduck really nails that tone. As the show progresses, Wang’s script flies further and further off the rails, losing any and all concern it ever had for justifying its ridiculous narrative choices. Honestly, this is when the show is at its most successful for me. There’s a ten-minute stretch near the end where things really go joyfully insane, that has me grinning from ear to ear.
The show as a whole, however, does drag a bit. Because of its satirical nature, there’s not really a narrative thrust pushing us forward through the 70 minutes. Every few minutes a new delightfully creative idea surfaces and pulls me back in, but I found that these moments are spaced just a little too far apart to keep me fully engaged. Which isn’t to diminish the show's creativity (it honestly reminds me of Ratking, and not just because it utilises some similarly silly puppetry), but more to gently suggest that it might be too long. There’s no individual element that’s bad, but losing some of the more average ones, might let the exceptional parts shine even brighter. I feel like a 55 minute run length would better serve Wang’s performance, all the delightful design, and the show as a whole.
Still, the inventiveness of Skyduck makes it something well worth seeing. I genuinely think Wang gives one of the best comedic theatrical performances I’ve ever seen, and I commend Circa for programming something this boundary pushing in Circa One. It makes sense however, as due to its pop-culture-obsessiveness, and general goofy nature, the show is insanely accessible. You don’t need to be a die-hard theatre person to engage with Skyduck, and I see people of a variety of ages laughing along with it. I am sad to see a reasonably small crowd there for Saturday night, and I really hope that people get out and see this. Theatre like this doesn’t come around often, and we should snatch it up while it’s here.