Everyone loves a good laugh. Everyone benefits from a show that makes you think. Lucky for Auckland theatre-goers, James Nokise’s current solo show, Rukahu, very much delivers both.
Winner of Best Theatre Solo and the Makes You Think awards at the 2015 NZ Fringe Festival, Rukahu opened this week at Basement Theatre.
In reference to the show, Nokise said he’s “always curious what we can get away with”. A very meta production, Rukahu stars Nokise as Jon Bon Fasi, a senior pacific island actor/poet/ballerina/artist. The play features Fasi’s production of “Rukahu: In Search of the Pacific”. A Creative New Zealand funded project, Fasi has worked his way through the gifted $75,000 travelling the world.
As he travels to Samoa, Macau, Russia and beyond, Fasi links each location and his experiences to the Pacific Islands – there’s Rome, "the heart of the Pacific Islands" (because Samoa is the heart of the Pacific Islands and the church is the heart of Samoa and Rome is the heart of the church depending where you are in Samoa?) and Paris, "the cheese of the Pacific Islands" (because Paris is the country least like Samoa and cheese is the food least like Samoan food?).
For the majority of the show Nokise seems to be taking the piss. He successfully plays with cultural expectations and pokes fun at the palangis in the crowd. It’s towards the end of the show that things get serious. Abruptly stopping during one of his performance snippets, Fasi asks the audience “what am I doing?”. He leads into a monologue about Auckland and its treatment of Pacific Islanders. Drawing attention to the homeless and marginalised, he asks us why we care more about a white American guy with an orange wig than our own people.
Confronting and raw, Nokise’s Fasi makes us question our laughter throughout the whole show. An apathetic audience, we’re happy to laugh but we’re not willing to care. It’s in these moments that Rukahu reveals its surprising complexities.
Hilarious, charming and savage, Rukahu answers the questions that no one asks – while also querying why not.
Rukahu plays at Basement Theatre until this Saturday. Tickets are available here.