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CLEVER CONTEMPORARY HUMOUR

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PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS: Christmas with Celia
Written by James Nokise
Directed by Anya Tate-Manning
The No Fefe Collective

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 10 Dec 2013 to 14 Dec 2013

Reviewed by Maraea Rakuraku, 12 Dec 2013


Coming off the back of an incredibly busy year for James Nokise (he was recently named Most Improved Comedian and Best Male Comedian in the 2013 NZ Comedy Guild Awards) is Christmas with Celia, an homage/salute to Wellington's lisping, greenie, cyclist mayor Celia Wade-Brown (Kate McGill).

The stage is pimped out with mandatory Christmas bling and (just quietly) I do like me some George Michael and Mariah Carey. My crew isn't keen to sit in the front row, all crying “they'll pick on us, it'll be interactive” but we do and then, of course, it's interactive and they pick on us. Aue.

Even if initially reluctant, that's something I do like about PSA performances: how they include their audience through the good-natured prodding of the fourth wall. It gets us on side and that's not just because we want them to do well. I mean, c'mon on it's entry, even the bicycle gets applause.

I like that the humour isn't mean. Wade-Brown's characteristics are easy fodder for mean-spirited attacks and props that PSA doesn't go there. It totally relies on audience intelligence and there could be criticism that this is targeted at a certain kind of Wellingtonian: educated, well-read and interested in politics. However, because of its political satirical nature, there is something generic in its content and delivery that we can all relate too. After all, an a-hole in a suit is still just an a-hole, right? 

I enjoy the madcap, manic, madness when the stage is bombarded by the whole PSA whānau (is that you, Paul Mclaughlan /David Cunliffe, rockin' a lavalava and swag?).  Appearances by Aiden Weekes /Russell Norman, a red nose wearing Thom Adams /David Carter and the bounding David Lawrence /John Key add to the mayhem, meaning my attention does waver during some of the earlier Celia solo moments.

Even so Kate McGill /Celia Wade-Brown can definitely hold her own. Her confidence and natural ability means she just “wolls wiv it.” Some of the script does get swallowed in its delivery because, well, it's detailed and specific and you really have to listen, but that's nothing a few more performances and careful editing won't clear up. Even if you are like me and find your interest wavering in parts, don't worry: the caricature is completely riveting and there is definitely something about McGill.

Allan Henry's version of Wellington City Councillor Paul Eagle is enough for me to use the Google machine (Faafetai tele lava, Rosanna Raymond via Fatu Feu'u) when I get home to find out more. Even former Wellington Mayor Fran Wilde gets the Henry treatment and has me reaching into the dark recesses of my memory. However, because I am completely biased and have experienced the Winston Peters incarnation, I find myself waiting and waiting, so when he eventually saunters onto the stage, whisky bottle in hand – woop woop.

Of course Henry totally owns it, as Peters does in real life.  I could quote forever some of those one-liners.  In fact, I intend too. The scenes between him and McGill are some of the raunchiest funniest. 

The humour is clever and contemporary – WARNING: avert eyes during Kanye West, Kim Kardashian moment and as for the Breaking Bad reference, that's perfection right there.   

Nokise has a real handle on political satire, and the PSA whānau on their respective characters and caricature. What a gift it must be for actors to develop and develop characters over a period of time which is why I reiterate: why are Nokise and the PSA crew not doing this for television?

The performance I saw was a bit flat, missing the buzz that usually accompanies opening night. That could be nerves and the work could do with some tweaking but for some light-hearted fun, get along to it and enjoy. I bet you find yourself swaying along to their version of Fairytale of New York and like me, looking forward to 2014 when they take on John Banks.
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 Laurie Atkinson (The Dominion Post);