James Nokise does not immediately appear like a gangsta: he is a little over dressed for the Fringe Bar actually, in a tux and tie. However, this show is all about defying and transforming perceptions, and so the fancy get up is apt.
We begin with a brief and informative slideshow that runs through a history of race relations in NZ, and the impact of sport – the All Blacks in particular – on transforming society and politics, and from there we move on to New Zealand's gang culture, with some tales from the mean streets of the Hutt Valley.
Nokise is an accomplished comic, quick-witted, charming and in command of the stage. He has a deft hand; jokes that would be bad taste on the part of a less savvy performer are nicely judged, and his ‘Maori voice' and Polynesian/KFC material is used to interrogate racial stereotyping in comedy – as well as to make everyone laugh.
He has silly walks, and a slow striptease and enough physical comedy to keep the stage alive, but there is a political message at the centre of the show that makes it more than just gags. What we see is only part of what we get. Kids in gangs are really just kids in T-shirts, and they are way less scary, and have a lot less power over you, than political parties, who are also colour coded.
Nokise's comedy is smart and from the heart, and opening night in Wellington play to a full house who lap it up. Book fast for this one, because it is going to sell out.
Half Welsh half Samoan James Nokise is somewhat of a social commentator in his show So-So Gangsta.
This clever and insightful comic takes us on brief history or Aotearoa and discusses the role of gangs within New Zealand culture. Forget Ross Kemp this guy was there. This guy is real. This guy is ‘so so’ Gansta.
Entering the Vault @ Q Theatre dressed in a tux he looks nothing like his show poster. I guess that’s the point, as this show is about judgements, stereotypes and perception. Addressing the bros in the audience he switches around personas and accents.
An obviously intelligent man, Nokise tells the story of his adolescence and gang past. However this bro has got major comedic game and has the audience in the palm of his hand.
Intertwining politics, prison statistics and some very useful self defence advice this comedian strips down (literally) how we see each other.
If you like your ganstas a little camp with political insight then this is the bro for you.
First up was James Nokise’s So So Gangsta at Vault at Q. The lights dim as Tupac’s How Do You Want It plays and sets the tone. Nokise quickly assesses the audience and tests the mood with a few harmless lines. His adorably muddled Welsh Samoan Kiwi accent guides us through a quick humorous abridged version of the History of NZ Race Relations before we begin his journey peeling back the three layers of what it means to be a so so gangsta; a term discovered and redefine throughout his youth.
My take-away lesson from the show was that if you’re ever confronted by a gangsta, don’t harden-up, get limp-wrist-ed and they’ll back away like a chicken doing the moonwalk.
Witty, fobby, camp, gangsta, recommended!
In Auckland at Q Vault till Saturday 4 May
In Wellington at The Fringe Bar from Tuesday 7 May till Saturday 11 May
95%* of the time New Zealand politics is pretty ridiculous. Similarly, so are NZ gangs. So So Gangsta is an almost marriage of the two. An exploration of NZ history, politics and gangs under the superb guidance of Wellingtonian comic James Nokise.
The show begins with an abridged version of New Zealand history. Highlights include our absurd obsession with national sports players and our love for insidious racism. James Nokise is no stranger to racism, being half Welsh, half Samoan he’s been picked up by the police for just looking like he might be a guy who robbed a shop but he was also kicked out of a youth gang for using words like syntax.
It’s these experiences which shape the course of the show and while you could say that it’s pretty sh***y that he’s experienced things like this at all, it has worked in his favour. As Nokise points out, where would comedians be without politicians like Don Brash? And while it may have been a pain in the ass to get held up at Heathrow as a possible terrorist (because customs staff couldn’t find Samoa on a map) it makes for a good laugh later. Stupid people are naturally comedians best friends.
It’s playing on stupidity that allows So So Gangsta to work so well. Nokise has got a talent for seeing the holes and fallacies in the arguments of stupid people and stupid organisations and isn’t afraid to put it all out there. What results is a crowd howling with laughter. It’s political satire at its finest.
If you have a chance to slip into Q Theatre tonight I would highly recommend this show. It’s full of far too many wicked one liners to count and as a result has you laughing so hard it hurts. Otherwise, Wellingtonians have a chance later in the month at Fringe Bar.
Oh yeah and that gangsta as font on his belly? It’s actually Old English. SOSO GANGSTA.
*possibly a made up number.