If I was looking to pitch a political satirical television programme – think Spitting Image (UK: 1984-1996) and Public Eye (NZ: late 80s) without the latex puppetry – I'd head straight to James Nokise and hire him immediately as a writer. He knows his stuff and how to package and deliver it in a mad paced and packed 60 minutes, proven by Public Service Announcements: Revolution.
The cast of 14 is based on our current politicians and if you didn't know they were real there's no way you could make this stuff up.
Set in parliament on what is budget day, the action unfolds both within and outside the house as politicians rally for the reading of the budget. But not before, Bill English (Alex Greig) has a crisis of confidence that sets off a whole series of events that while highly improbable are hilarious. And it's through this maelstrom the cast strut.
Judith Collins (Hayden Frost) is realistically terrifying. Salesi Le'ota rocks Hekia Parata and I stifle giggles when I see his Pita Sharples mumbling Toi Whakaari, Toi Whakaari.
Some of the caricatures are more developed then others, Hone Harawira (James Nokise) is a stand-out, though Sole – what's with that accent? But it's Allan Henry's Winston Peters that is so so hilarious. I find myself, as I am in real life, magnetically drawn to watching him. The king of one-liners is nearly eclipsed by the faux king of one-liners.
I can see why the cast look like they're having a hoot of a time because … it's a hoot! The writing is that solid, fun and current (there's an Aaron Gilmore reference) and the directors Rachel Henry and Anya Tate Manning have made some inspired comic choices (Andrew Paterson's Grant Robertson – brilliant), though it does take me a while to figure out the purpose of the mini theatre booth, I was relishing the entertainment so much.
There are a few cringe homophobic references and it's refreshing to see the racism, that usually runs hand-in-hand with this, is kept to a minimum and in the end overwhelmed by the overall tone of the show and some well-judged interventions by Nokise. Though, of course, there's a Tame Iti. There's always a Tame Iti.
In some parts Public Service Announcements: Revolution reminds me of The Thick Of It; in others, a kind of mad-cap Enid Blyton adventure. It's biting, lean on the moral lesson (even better) and well observed, intelligent, political commentary with priceless one liners that I wish I had thought of first. It's what's missing in New Zealand Television programming (and no, Seven Days doesn't count – bet that rarks up all the anonymous haters) and I'm not saying that because its woooo TV but because this kind of political commentary – similar to Radio New Zealand's weekly, Down the List (Dave Armstrong) – demands and deserves a wider nationwide audience.
Sure, there are some who may say being about politics makes it immediately inaccessible to most folk. Not so, I challenge them to find anyone who can't relate today, in this country, to Public Service Announcements: Revolution.
How James Nokise managed to squeeze in two works – this one, Public Service Announcements: Revolution and So So Gangsta – into the International Comedy Festival as a writer and performer, is impressive. Long may he bring it. Long may he continue to write and develop this quality of work.