Australia, Let's Talk About the Golliwogs

James Nokise and his golliwog have come across the ditch to the Adelaide Fringe to get people to talk about racism and race relations. The golliwog that sits on stage while he delivers his show was handmade by a Maori elder and was given to Nokise. Awkward.

It's an intimate affair in tent. Friendly and personable, Nokise starts the show by introducing himself and attempting to get to know the audience and find out where everyone is from. Origins are important to Nokise.

New Zealand born and raised, Nokise has a Welsh mam and a Samoan dad. His parents got married to the absolute outrage of his maternal grandfather. He's spent a lot of time thinking about racism and thinks the solution is for everyone to loosen up, tell some jokes about it, and talk about it. If you're laughing, you're more open to changing your mind, and racism is a bit like a boggart: the best way to defeat it is with laughter.

Despite the show's title, it is actually pretty golliwog-lite, though Nokise does give a brief history of the golliwog's origins in dolls representing minstrels and popularisation by the children's author Florence Kate Upton, and later demonisation by Enid Blyton, where golliwogs were portrayed as deceitful kinky bastards, stealing Noddy's car and clothes, leaving him naked in the woods.

This is thought-provoking and brave comedy delivered with energy and nuance. It was the first night and it was not as polished as it will probably be by the end of the run, sometimes the flow between stories was a bit stilted or awkward, but not for long. There was one rather uncomfortable moment where Nokise asked all the white people to stand up, then all the non-white people to stand up and stay standing. I didn't like it, although maybe that was the point.

Australia, Let's Talk About the Golliwogs is tagged as comedy for social change, and it lives up to this by ending on a positive note with an action to take. Nokise encourages audience members to go out empowered to have conversations about racism that are friendly and peppered with humour. The type of conversation that can actually change a mind. I walked out feeling a little more positive and hopeful. In a time of Trump and the rise from the swamp of One Nation, this is a show to see.

★★★★