REVIEW: Reset: James Acaster (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Matt Baker

James Acaster

[No Do-Over]

Since his first show in New Zealand, James Acaster has had an acclaimed presence in our comedy scene. From the New Zealand Comedy Guild’s Best International Act Award in 2013 (Prompt) to the New Zealand International Comedy Festival’s Best International Show Award in 2014 (Bread), his risible observations, delivered in a dulcet and placid cadence, have been readily accepted by New Zealand audiences.

The only potential problem with this is that Kiwis, globally perceived as a pacified nation, can become too relaxed, and, consequently, too passive in their role as an audience to such a comedic style. While this is not necessarily indicative of Acaster’s experience performing New Zealand, it was enough to give me cause for concern that, based on seeing his previous years’ shows, he might not return due to a perception that his style wasn’t quite landing here.

This year, whether intentional or not, he addresses the issue in a variety of ways. From ingratiating himself to us from the moment he starts his set and to acknowledging our cultural difference to the rest of the world, to some “post-show” reflections on how well both he and we did, Acaster has acquainted himself well with the New Zealand psyche, and premiering Reset in New Zealand should prove successful when the show tours internationally.

While a tangential narrative is a component of Acaster’s work, there were opportunities which feel missed when compared to his 2015 show, Represent, in which a more complete story was told. However, the main subject matter is incredibly resonant and provides food for thought for anyone with even the most insignificant regrets in life (see: everyone). If you think there’s a chance you might not make it to Acaster’s show this comedy festival, hit the reset button now and book your tickets.

Reset is performed by James Acaster and plays at The Classic as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival 2016 until May 7. For details see Comedy Festival

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Stewart Lund

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