Edinburgh Fringe Reviews: Gangs
Two shows looking back on youth
First time Fringe performer Daniel Piper demonstrates his comedic chops with his James Bond-themed show Daniel Piper Is In Four Gangs [★★★]. Bond quickly takes a back seat and becomes the loose framework for Piper to reflect on his life thus far, starting with him joining his first gang at the tender age of seven and ending with a spoken word showdown during his university years.
Piper is a clear front runner among up and coming comics; his strong sense of narrative gives his storytelling some bite, as well as cementing his show as a self-contained piece of theatrical delight. He has a controlling presence and doesn’t outstay his welcome, with his best material coming across in his most frantic moments: fighting yogurts, parents and girlfriends from his past. Some of his work is less effective and characters draw on stereotypes a little too often, but when not battling yogurt or causing major disruptions in cinemas, Piper is engaging enough and his energy low-key enough not to be tiresome. A tight first hour.
A charming and engaging performer, James Nokise is a natural public speaker. Born into the house of a minster and librarian, it is no wonder that Nokise has picked up a few tricks for communicating with an audience. His show So-So Gangsta [★★★] has him reflecting on his experiences as a youth gang member; Nokise sets out to brea kdown the falsehoods and misconceptions that surround gang life, and to demystify the alluring lifestyle for young kids.
Even in a small room Nokise is fully engaged and able to handle a crowd with ease. He has the cool calm sleekness of the pink panther and the stage grace of Chuck Berry. His material is sharp and effective, his targets are precise. He hails from New Zealand, a country that has struggled with young gangs that feed its members into far more dangerous gangs around the country.
Armed with a powerpoint, a microphone and his wit, Nokise sets out to lambast these groups and all that they stand for. He does so with a glint in his eye, and a disarming honesty that should convert even the most doubtful of audience members. His intentions are clear and laudable, although some of his premises do fall flat – the latter half hour drags slightly compared to the far tighter first, with a less than satisfying end.