BATS Theatre, Studio, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

21/05/2024 - 25/05/2024

NZ International Comedy Festival 2024

Production Details

Writer and Performer - Viki Moananu
Script Editor - Amelia Langford

Oh That Theatre Company

“Fat, lazy, aggressive and rude”. And that was just from Viki’s bus driver! Viki Moananu reflects on his life choices and whether or not he would be stuffing a bus driver’s body into an unmarked van if his sister didn’t give him his nickname Puka.

A debut comedy solo hour about queerness, destiny and arguing with your siblings.

Viki’s a playwright and comedian, his comedy is bold, brazen and belligerent, just don’t show it to his parents.

Winner – Most Promising Emerging Pasifika Artist 2022, NZ Fringe Festival
Winner – Best Play by Pasfika Playwright 2023, Playmarket
Wellington finalist 2023, Raw Comedy Quest

The Studio, BATS Theatre
21st-25th May 2024
Ticketing link: https://bats.co.nz/whats-on/puka/

Comedy , Theatre , Solo ,

55 Minutes

Throwaway lines have the impact of comedic depth charges 

Review by John Smythe 22nd May 2024

What’s in a name?

Prior to seeing Viki Moananu’s “debut comedy solo hour about queerness, destiny and arguing with your siblings”, I ponder upon its title. In te reo Māori, ‘puka’ may refer to a particular broad-leafed tree (Meryta sinclairii) or a sheet of paper; ‘pukapuka’ can mean ‘book’ or ‘lungs’. In the UK, ‘Pukka’ reeks of British imperialism in India and is also slang for ‘excellent’ or ‘cool’ (cf: Jamie Oliver) …

In Samoan, however, ‘puka’ means ‘chubby’, ‘overweight’. It’s the nickname Viki was taunted with as a child and is, he tells us, the source of the trauma that made him the dangerous man he is today. I won’t commit ‘spoiler crime’ by revealing the details. Suffice to say the small BATS Studio stage features, from the preset, a large wheeled suitcase from which a sleeved arm with a bloody shoulder protrudes.

Viki’s outrageous ‘gallows humour’* provokes shocked laughter. He plays with us as well as his theme, offering reassurances like “it was a metaphor” before unleashing more wicked material – sometimes through song, accompanying himself on a tiny ukelele. As we try to locate his elusive moral centre, we have to keep checking our own. Are we laughing with him or at him or with those who bullied him? If this is a classic ‘bullied-turned-bully’ parable, where does he stand now? And how do we judge our own responses as the show progresses?

“We all have equal responsibility in my actions,” is one of many provocative lines – and personal responsibility does thread through as a moral touchstone. Destiny (not the church) is also considered as a concept. Having located his poverty-stricken childhood in Strathmore, Viki offers equal opportunity critiques of Anglicans and Catholics as he plays with the whole ‘God’ question.

He keeps us guessing by claiming special rights because of racism and asserting a questionable opinion about gay men and misogyny. Such gems are dropped in as throwaway lines yet have the impact of comedic depth charges.

Although his sister has been a constant source of aggravation, he enlists her – in the form of a self-operated sock puppet – to balance his fantastical stories “with #facts”: an ingenious intervention facilitated with an insistent ukelele sting by tech operator Sasha Tilly.

Hawaiian musician and singer Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole is a touchstone of comfort, not least for his queer-affirming rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.

Vehement opinions about children, siblings and sport keep the bitter trauma-fed content flowing until Vicki reveals he’s “a playwright first” and drops in a quick tutorial about three-act structure, genre, tone, pace, etc. Thus we’re invited (as I see it) to objectively assess his show. Then he comes clean about what he really thinks and feels – summing it up with a song.

Mystery, Thriller and Horror have all played their parts in Puka. I step back into a wild Wellington night smiling at the cleverness of what I regard as a clever cautionary tale about allowing ‘trauma’ to own you instead of your owning it as a source of creativity.
*Humor that treats serious, frightening, or painful subject matter in a light or satirical way. (dictionary.com) 


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