JAMES NOKISE in The Bronaissance

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

06/05/2014 - 10/05/2014

BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

29/04/2014 - 03/05/2014

NZ International Comedy Festival 2014

Production Details


Once again, comedy will be pushed to its extreme when award winning comic James Nokise brings his “bros” together to incorporate visual art, music, dance and poetry within the comedy walls of his very own take on The Renaissance.  

The Bronaissance is a sequel to James’ highly successful 2013 solo show So-so Gangsta where James will be collaborating with Footnote Dance, celebrated poet Karlo Mila, composer Adam Page, and visual artists Janet Lilo, Cheyenne Tuffery and Jeremy Leatinuu, creating a new kind of gang where expression is king and perceptions are challenged.

Having grown up in Whitby and The Hutt, James was a teenage gang member turn comic and playwright. With this unique insider’s perspective at his fingertips, James’ comedy is smartly provocative, with a political and sociological bent.

In 2013, James had a full year of TV appearances (7 Days, NZ Intl Comedy Festival Gala, World Famous with Ben and Steve, Maori TV Comedy Crack Up, and Back Benchers), as well as a weekly spot on Radio Live. He received the coveted Best Male Comedian Award at the 2013 NZ Comedy Guild Awards, as well as nominations for the Fred Dagg Award in 2013 NZ Intl Comedy Festival and Best Comedy Show in 2013 Dunedin Fringe. His 2013 solo show, So-so Gangsta enjoyed several successful seasons and was selected to tour the country with Arts on Tour in September 2014.

“This Wellingtonian has got all the moves” – Metro Magazine 2013

“This bro has got major comedic game” – Keeping Up with NZ 2013

Dates: 29 April – 3 May, 8:00pm
Venue: BATS theatre, cnr Cuba & Dixon Sts, CBD
Tickets: Adults $20, Conc. $15, groups of 6+ $15
Bookings: www.bats.co.nz

Dates: 7:15pm 6 – 10 May, 7:15pm
Venue: Q Loft, 305 Queen Street, CBD
Tickets: Adults $25, Conc. $20, groups of 6+ $20
Bookings: 09 309 9711 or http://www.qtheatre.co.nz

Fresh, cheeky, astute confrontation without intimidation

Review by Nik Smythe 06th May 2014

James Nokise’s been on the scene for some years now.  Five years ago I saw his autobiographical drama The Minister’s Son, which essentially dealt with his parents’ relationship with him and each other, however this is my first experience watching him perform in his chosen medium. 

Not terribly surprisingly, Nokise’s comedy is also very autobiographical (not much standup isn’t these days), and his parents retain a strong presence through much of the material. Given Bronaissance is a sequel to last year’s So-so Gangsta, it’s fortunate he provides a brief synopsis: spent some teen years in a gang til he got kicked out for being too camp and skinny.  

Now he’s all grown-up in his dapper white suit jacket, Porirua basketball singlet, early 90s Vogue-style ‘fade’ haircut and classic 19th century style waxed mo, here to edu-tain us in the most enter-cational comedy show since Te Radar’s Hitori

The first lesson is on what makes a bro a bro; for instance they stop you being too big a dick when you’re drunk.  The next is the definition of the word Renaissance and a very brief description of the celebrated post Dark-Ages European culture revival of the same name. 

This leads organically into James’s present-day agenda: to focus on and support the rising tide of awareness in our own society to which the title refers.  It’s likely, at least in part, to have been inspired by his claim that he was the only bro in the entire Hutt Valley region to study art history in his 7th form year, where he learnt handy words like ‘chiaroscuro’. 

The three screens behind Nokise provide evocative contextual images: photos of people and places germane to his discourse, and historic artworks alongside original works from his collaborators Jeremy Leatinuu and Cheyenne Tuffery.  The input of the third visual artist advertised , Janet Lilo, is notably absent, due to the fact apparently no-one knows where she’s gone. 

The promo-guff also mentions dance, poetry and original musical compositions “creating a new kind of gang where expression is king and perceptions are challenged”.  Besides some unobtrusive background music, I’m not sure what the story is regarding those features.  Maybe Nokise has political aspirations and is practising election-promises? 

Small matter ultimately; if I hadn’t read the blurb I’d be only slightly less bothered than I am.  I don’t quite concur with its claim to being comedy “pushed to the extreme”, but Nokise is a fresh, cheeky and remarkably astute voice in today’s comedy climate.  Quite funny too.

It’s obvious he cares deeply about the socio-political issues he raises, fearlessly and resolutely promoting his personal brand of informative advice.  Yet as confrontational as his material is, in essence, there’s no sense whatsoever of the kind of overbearing intimidation tactics that commonly occur with such soap-box style orations. He gives us the freedom and space to own our own perspectives on the matter.


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Layered, clever, intelligent work should be heard everywhere

Review by Maraea Rakuraku 30th Apr 2014

Ahh those one-liners coupled with that oh-so-familiar writer’s envy. It all comes back to me as I settle in for what turns out to be a 75-80 minute opening night performance of Bronaissance by James Nokise. Wearing a Porirua 04 shirt under a white blazer he enters the stage to rapturous applause.  

I’m always in awe of, well, Americans and how they’re ‘on’ and I place comedians in this category too. Nokise’s casual, relaxed (but not to the point-of-being comatose), non sweaty (he doesn’t sweat, wtf?), fast-paced delivery makes this an enjoyable experience. But then I am expecting that, having pretty much signed up as a fangirl of Public Service Announcements (PSA).

Bronaissance weaves in personal stories while showing a series of images revealing Nokise’s love for Art History. There were technical glitches that once they’re sorted will make this fly. Even so, it’s all forgivable. Nokise is intelligent, educated and politically astute and of course, that’s reflected in the show but not in a wanky, superior way. There is something heartfelt about this performance that, as he mixes in family anecdotes, is so honest you feel a little for him.   

There’s an interesting or perhaps telling response when he asks, “What is the most racist thing ever said to you?” Every single Polynesian in the audience is silent. I know this because I am sitting with three of them. Someone offers up “par-laing-ee.” Thankfully for us, Nokise translates while we (ok, me) are still figuring out what “par-laing-ee” is. and when I do, I’m a little confused as to how palagi is racist, when it’s a word describing a whiteperson or non-samoan?  I mean, I was called a palagi by a Samoan kid once, as a matter of fact, not as a slur. 

Nokise is already there riffing that: said punter SHOULD be offended. At the mis-pronunciation. It’s clever, inclusive and potentially diffuses tension which – let’s-face-it with the Kiwi ‘politeness’ around racism – is actually refreshing and here’s what I think is one of his strengths. He’s a grown-up. A person of Welsh and Samoan whakapapa who’s worked it out. Who doesn’t use ‘identity issues’ for cheap laughs? He’s deeper than that and it comes through in the material which he re-references throughout the set.   

That’s not to mean I don’t think he can bring the thunder, because when you got the level of smarts he has – you so can. It’s that he doesn’t. He chooses not to. He keeps some in the bag and in fact I overheard an audience member say something similar after the show, concluding, “That shit is sexy.” I’ll say.  

Everything gets a workout from Fat Freddys Drop and those loooooooong as trumpet notes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Burger King, Burger Fuel, Al Nesbitt, Game of Thrones, New Zealand history – I particularly like the way he describes the Treaty of Waitangi to school kids and his definition of hikoi: priceless (I’ll try not to pinch that James 😉 – te reo Māori, Polynesians too, the recent royal visit and of course, because it’s Nokise, politics.

There are heavy hitters involved in the Bronaissance: Tongan Poet Karlo Mila (with her poem ‘The Poet as Unionist’), Sheyne Tuffery and Jeremy Leatinuu artworks, and Suzanne Tamaki’s distinctive clothing and flag. It’s a layered work. Clever, intelligent and he is an astute enough performer to rein himself in and read his audience. Even apologising to one member, “You didn’t come here for a lecture eh bro”!

Props to Hair of Dog Productions for their slick marketing material. Well done. It always looks effortless. I know it isn’t.  

And respect to Bats, which is the artistic home of many a fine New Zealand act. But for me it’s time for Nokise’s bigboypants. He deserves a wider audience. It’s an election year and this quality of comedy/political commentary should be heard everywhere – because, to quote the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, “Everything is Art, everything is Politics”.


David Geary May 1st, 2014

Kia ora Maraea - Great review. I love your style and enthusiasm. Made me really want to see the show. I'm back from Canada in NZ for 3 weeks in May so hope to see some homegrown talent like this. Cheers DG

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