They’re talented, athletic and just a bit naughty … the fabulous Wau Wau Sisters, Adrienne Truscott and Tanya Gagne, are sure-fire crowd pleasers, bringing their unique mix of humour, Burlesque and acrobatic skills to the Coffs Harbour International Buskers and Comedy Festival this year …
Hi girls. Tell us a bit about yourselves. Is it true that the two of you are half-sisters?
AT: I grew up around and about a bit – Connecticut, New Jersey, England and a few other places. My sis grew up mostly in New Hampshire. Yes, we are half-sisters. We have the same dad and different mums. We’re six weeks apart!
How old were you when an interest in performing kicked in?
AT: We’ve both been performing since we were little – starting out with living room extravaganzas for family, friends and neighbours! Although we didn’t grow up in the same households, we both made very similar shows, wrangling other friends, adults, etc. to be in the show. Hanging upside down on a staircase while dressed in boas and pretending to drink cocktails – all quite similar to what we do now! I remember one show – an impromptu – that started when I was asked to put tinsel on the Christmas tree and made a bikini out of it instead. I think I was 5!
Where did the name ‘Wau Wau Sisters’ come from – and what actually made you two decide to form an entertainment duo in the first place?
AT: ‘Wau Wau’ was bequeathed to us by a friend by way of a Brecht character called Mr. Wau – a strongman surrounded by a bevy of merry misfits, freaks and urchins. It’s like we’re his bastard daughters! In Mandarin it means ‘cute’; in German it means ‘Woof Woof’ – like a dog, and we recently learned what it means in Hawaiian, but this jet lag is keeping that a secret from me!
Our decision to work together was pretty organic – we have a very similar sense of humour, like to do a lot of different things, and both write dirty songs – and we did all that before we got to know each other. We had performed together in other people’s work, but realised we wanted more freedom to make our own kooky, quirky stuff. A sister act is an entertainment classic, so it was sort of always on the cards!
A part of your act involves acrobatics and also Burlesque … how much
training do you have to do to keep your routines fresh and interesting?
AT: I think for both of us, what keeps our work fresh and interesting is what happens in our brains, more than our bodies. We train regularly and learn new trapeze tricks and all that, but we’re both very curious and rigorous ladies – we can get bored easily, so we take on gigs that ask new things of us, make sure not to repeat ourselves, make sure we’re doing
things that feel brave, questionable, important, daring – all that stuff!
We allow a lot of room for improvisation in our act, which also keeps it alive and fresh. We look and feel very silly and light-hearted in our shows but as we’re making them, we’re actually thinking very hard about all sorts of things, issues, conundrums, etc.! We just wrap it all up in infectious fun!
Do you each have specialities – for example, is one of you more involved with creating the physical routines, while the other comes up with the verbal component of the act?
TG: No, it’s pretty much a group effort. One of us might find a goofy costume or prop or song and come to rehearsal with it for a play, and then we both run with it and see what happens. Usually our rule is if it cracks each other up, we’re heading in the right direction.
Your act has been described as “bawdy and bold” , “irreverent”, “sacrilegious”and “foul mouthed” among other things, but if you had to describe the act yourself – what words would you use?
TG: Funny, smart, brave, strong.
AT: Provocative, camouflaged, guileless, uneasy to categorise, not complacent, hysterical …
You’ve travelled around the world with your performing and won many awards, including Best International Act at the Brighton Fringe Festival in 2008 and Best Cabaret Act at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2004. What’s been a standout in your career for you?
AT: At the risk of sounding really corny, I feel like every trip brings new favourite things. These festivals we get to go to are soooo rich with gorgeous people and gorgeous audiences, new elements of shows, new late and crazy nights out, that each one sort of remains at the forefront, until the next one! I think that’s why we love our ‘jobs’ so much! That said, I think when we realised that our show and our partnership was unique enough to be the very reason we get to have these adventures; the moment of that realisation was pretty beautiful. Luckily, we actually do get to relive that over and over again! And this time in Coffs!
Drop us a few hints about what audiences can expect to see and hear from you both at Coffs Harbour!
TG: Just about everything they can imagine!
AT: Things they think and think about doing, but don’t do themselves!
Interview by Jo Atkins.
Catch the Wau Wau Sisters at the Coffs Harbour International Buskers and Comedy Festival’s Gala Dinner, September 22.
This story was published in issue 24 of the Coffs Coast Focus