James Nokise: So So Gangsta (3 stars)

This article is from 2016

James Nokise: So So Gangsta

A show about being yourself takes an unexpected turn

There's a lot to like in this clever show from Kiwi, James Nokise (pronounced 'No-keys-eh?'). For one thing, you learn how to say 'Samoa' with Nokise enunciating the name of the Oceanic island as 'Sar-mower. It's important to him that people get this right, because his dad is Samoan. It's a heritage thing about owning your culture, and about being yourself. Except that, the version of himself that Nokise presents when he skips on stage – wrapped in a dandyish scarf with matching pocketchief – isn't quite the real Nokise.

He lets his hair down mid-show, transforming, right in front of your eyes, into a scruffier, loucher person. Someone more akin to his 16-year-old self, when he was sucked into New Zealand's gang culture. It's not quite the performance you think it's going to be, therefore. And his anti-gangster polemic takes an unexpectedly topical turn towards the end.

But, though he backs the whole thing up with self-effacing honesty, and some PowerPoint slides, he hasn't quite understood the tone of British political debate. It's hard to blame him. Satirising Brexit is like trying to satirise quantum physics: extremely difficult, and most people wouldn't get it anyway. Still, he's a disarmingly likeable comedian. Better than so so. But not criminally good.

The Stand 2, until 28 Aug, 10.40pm, £9 (£8).

James Nokise: So So Gangsta

  • 3 stars

James Nokise Useless former gang member James Nokise takes a light-hearted look at the way we see each other, examining how people end up in gangs and what happens when you're kicked out. So So Gangsta is a mixture of personal stories from his time in youth gang The Bloodz in the late 90s, a history of New Zealand's gang…