by Laura Ferguson
Ranging from seemingly innocuous questions to outright verbal abuse, Roque outlines the racial tensions that simmer continuously in our daily lives. Tensions that my skin colour allows me the privilege of not being privy to. That is Roque’s point. His set is carefully crafted to be quintessential stand-up, right down to the wooden stool and mic stand. His work follows the patterns this audience is used to: set-up, ramp up, punchline. We know when to listen, when to pause, when to laugh. And now we know when we should reflect on our behaviour.
Roque has thought the structure of his show out and we fall in line accordingly. As the set goes on, laughter at stereotypes become questioning. Are we laughing at such stereotypes or at how ridiculous they are in the first place? Are we allowed to laugh at all? As Roque shares the camaraderie of shared experience with other Kiwi-Filipinos in the crowd, I have to wonder how much I have personally contributed to their dread fear of feeling unwelcome. I’ve never been told to ‘go back where I came from’. My Canadian friends are usually described as expats rather than immigrants. What else has my privilege blinded me to?
Even as this miasma of social morality swirls internally, Roque is ever-charming on the stage. He shares another story of his family life, this time about his grandfather and a circumstance that played out like a sitcom. It is filled with love and hilarity. It occurs to me that I rarely see a comedian smile so truthfully on stage. Roque loves performing and he is happy being able to tell his story, to be a voice. It is an absolute joy to watch.
James Roque’s Legal Alien had me asking myself what more I could do to aid in realising an equitable society as well as massaging my overworked cheeks. Roque is a master of being able to bring New Zealand’s cultural darkness into the spotlight while still making me laugh heartily throughout. Legal Alien may have set its sights firmly on New Zealand space, but being able to experience it through another’s eyes was an abduction of self I would endeavour to probe through again.
James Roque’s Legal Alien is running until May 5th 2018. You can find tickets here.