REVIEW: E Tu (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth


[Stand Proud]

I believe E Tū is the first comedy show held at Te Pou Theatre in New Lynn and I really hope it is the first of many,

With Nick Rado at the helm as MC we felt we were in good hands from the outset.  His understated, good-natured, unassuming manner was perfectly pitched to interlink the talent on stage tonight.  He established some very quick rapport with the audience and turned the proceedings cleverly into modest, self-depreciating hilarity that was endearing and solid.

The badass trio Frickin Dangerous Bro featuring James Roque, Jamaine Ross and Pax Assadi that bounded on-stage shortly after looked like ZZ Top way before they got their recording contract.  They launched into some good natural banter with no apparent point but that didn’t matter in the slightest.  In their introductory exchanges we got to know the 3-man crew who very quickly revealed an obvious fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants approach.  This worked so well that Roque actually corpsed a couple of times due to his counterparts’ clever comebacks, which were clearly unexpected – making the whole process even more funny as we witnessed it unfolding live, right in front of us.  Their sketch comedy was a brilliantly observed twist on the teacher/pupil relationship with a joyful amount of irony and a ‘hood’ful of local references.  I’d definitely love to see more of what these guys can do with Roque as the perfect foil to Ross and Assadi.

Next came TV3’s Jono And Ben & Funny Girls Rose Matafeo, whom we had recently seen at Le Comique.  It was great to see her kicking it and enjoying herself with a very responsive crowd.  Her upbeat pace, energetic delivery and varied themes that she covered during her 15 minute segment was absolutely superb – a pleasant turn around from her performance on Sunday.  And although she repeated a couple of segments from that show, we felt that her overall performance was nothing short of perfect tonight – she basically had the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand.  Her unabashed revelations about contraception, fatness and many things medical was funny and refreshing in equal measure.

Australian Arab bloke Khaled Kalafalla closed out the first half, and appeared to love the freedom a NZ audience gave him to push the limits.  He seemed to revel in telling the jokes that might have bombed in Oz but that we in NZ relished.  From abo to ISIS jokes, it made me strangely proud/odd that he felt more comfortable to express himself in NZ than in his home country.  I believe that when Kalafalla flies back home he will yet again raise the IQ of both countries.

The second half was confidently kicked off by James Nokise.  A warm and beguiling set, Nokise grabs the crowd from the get-go and never falters.  Now an international success Nokise has plenty to say about his Samoan roots, New Lynn and all things local.  And I suspect his ‘accidentally’ arriving at the gig 4-hours early informed his top class local material tonight.  A consummate professional, his observations were insightful and true.  In retrospect I feel even more privileged to have caught his act now that I realise that this marked his only performance in the festival this year, before he jet sets off to far flung places including Guam.

The performance of Angella Dravid (half Indian and half Samoan) was a deadpan delivery that punctuated the preceding high energy acts.  I can only describe her as an Asian-Pacific Emo recounting feelings, shame and confusion concerning the crazy world surrounding her.  A vividly alternative perspective, she even managed to seamlessly incorporate some unruly and toilet-bound audience members into her Iron Maiden of a monologue.  Secretly I have to admit I was delighted that she did corpse once, ever-so-slightly-briefly to show she is indeed really human.

The headline act (more about that later) was Nish Kumar.  Fresh from Shepherd’s Bush London he was rightly baffled about why the home of Maori Theatre was in an industrial estate, as well as being thrown in at the deep end a little (more about that soon).  I was excited to see Kumar as he was highly recommended by a comedian mate.  Clearly a top notch comedian, Kumar put on a hilarious set but I suspect the slow burn and ultimate payoff of his full-length show might be greater than the parts of its sum.

An understandable part of Kumar’s confusion would have arisen from the fact that he was the headline act but was brought on accidently as the second to last act.  However strangely this seemed to work well.  In that the final act, Jamaine Ross aka 1/3 of Frickin Dangerous Bro cleverly provided a coda for the evening with a brief but quality set.  His prime ministerial comparison of John Key and Helen Clark was slapstick but clever and a real crowd pleaser.

Throughout the show Rado did a sterling job connecting the dots and providing some highly original material himself.

E Tū was a fantastic convergence of crowd, venue and talent.  And the entire evening was a comedic pleasure, which I hope will be first of many such experiences at Te Pou.

NZ Comedy Trust and Te Pou present E Tū, Stand Up at Te Pou Theatre, New Lynn on 5 May.  Details see NZ Comedy Festival

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