Ben Blackman - KeepingupwithNZ.com'I admired his ability to make fun of himself and at the same time offer some insights into the perspectives of those families who happen upon a strange, green place with cloud elongation and alien culture...'open/close
Retrospection is a crazy thing, everything in hindsight seems so easy and past problems are solved by that ever elusive tool – common sense. On Wednesday night James Roque took us for a stroll through his childhood, reminding us that growing up lingers in innocence for ages and then disintegrates into mega-complication in what seems like a jiffy. On the subject of common sense, in hindsight James will probably be a bit gutted that his technological support failed him mid-show, but he should take this as a lesson and include in his letter that he should not rely on technology for his stand-up gigs. Besides, he doesn’t need a laptop and impressive digital cues because he is well capable of holding the stage. I reckon he should stick to the overhead projector for his special effects – keep it old school bro.
Keeping in mind though, James is only 22 years old, and he has gathered a lot of wisdom through his witty observations of growing up as a foreigner in New Zealand. He delivers some great insights into his gangster parents. James Roque is fairly gangster himself, you would not pick it but his knowledge of contemporary rap is sound, and his impersonations are spot on. He does a great Snoop, Kanye and Jay Z and also pulls off what I imagine is a great mimicry of his old man. Despite his technical hiccups, James soldiered on and did a great job of ensuring that things didn’t get gnarly and awkward, his genuine affability saved him there.
James Roque’s show opens up a lot of his personal life, and it takes a heap of courage to do that in front of an audience. I admired his ability to make fun of himself and at the same time offer some insights into the perspectives of those families who happen upon a strange, green place with cloud elongation and alien culture.
With hindsight in mind once more, I think we may have caught young James out. At the start of the show we were asked to ensure our phones were off, he then later told a story about his own secret texting mission at someone else’s show! The cheek of it! Go and see James before the festival ends, he is a splendid lad and Vault @ Q Theatre is toasty as.
Gather And Hunt'James' greatest talent might even be his ability to consistently call people out on their casual (or entirely awful) racism, making his point while also making everyone laugh. A lot...'open/close
This review is a little later than it should be, but better late than never, right? It couldn't come a moment later - tonight is the last night of the Comedy Festival (!!!). If you haven't spent any part of the last three weeks in stitches, there's still time! This also means it's your last chance to see James reminisce and explain to a younger version of himself how to master all the ins and outs he didn't have the wisdom to get right the first time round. It would seem James is also a little late, however sound his advice may be; you can't change the past, after all... Right?
'Roque to self' is comprised of a series of tips for wee 8-year-old James, a guide to breezing through life after a move from the Philippines, piled together from 14 years of living here. We're taken on a journey through James' life in New Zealand, as he sits as close to girls as chairs will allow, tries some yeasty 'New Zealand chocolate', realises how un-photogenic he is and just how badass his parents are. While most of the show's spent laughing at some of the more awkward parts of James' life, moments spent flicking through old school folders and Spiderman drawings hinted at genuine nostalgia.
James' greatest talent might even be his ability to consistently call people out on their casual (or entirely awful) racism, making his point while also making everyone laugh. A lot. If you're familiar with any form of social media, you'll understand why this is quite extraordinary in and of itself. Put simply - James is really funny. His concept is fairly simple and cleverly cohesive, yet wholly unpredictable. The hour is a pretty personal one, but it never comes close to being cheesy and some moments are all too relatable.
If you could write a letter to your 8-year-old self, what would you write? It’s a question many people have asked themselves, and it’s the premise of comedian James Roque’s wittily titled 2014 International Comedy Festival solo show, Roque to Self. From his early days in the Philippines and introduction to New Zealand spreads, to the complexities of prejudice and the opposite sex, Roque examines his past fifteen years and narrows his letter down to a few titbits on how his younger self could potentially get through them.
This narrative structure works well, and Roque even throws in a few curveballs to prevent it from becoming too repetitious. As technical support becomes somewhat of a staple component to the new generation of Auckland comedians, it’s inevitable that some will suffer form Murphy’s Law. Roque is no exception, however, this affords the opening night crowd a viewing of his deleted scenes. It’s a minor glitch, and a part of the show that isn’t heavily replied upon, or at least Roque deals with it extremely well for the remainder of his set.
There are plenty of admittedly specific pop-culture references in his material, but they’re broad enough to understand, and Roque’s acknowledgement and slight frivolousness make them ultimately inconsequential to the audiences’ overall ability to enjoy the show. It’s an example of great balance between material and delivery. Said delivery is not as aggressive as others in the festival, and Roque’s easy-going nature results in an affable comedian with whom the audience can connect.
This connection is important for not only generating a rapport with the audience and a empathy in some of his stories, but also bringing home the point with which Roque ends the show. It’s a lesson in growth, which anyone at any age will understand.