us two

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - In­ter­view/ Sarah Cather­all Pho­to­graph/ Supplied

Anya Tate-Man­ning, 36, is an award-win­ning ac­tor, di­rec­tor and writer. Her first solo show

My Best Dead Friend, makes its Auck­land de­but in July. Her part­ner, James Nokise, 34, is an award-win­ning Welsh-Samoan co­me­dian, whose show Rukahu also opens in Auck­land next month. ANYA/ When I first met James, I ac­tu­ally found him re­ally an­noy­ing. I was work­ing in the bar at the Clas­sic Com­edy Club in Auck­land, and he had re­turned from Lon­don. He was gig­ging. I thought, “Who is this guy?” He was re­ally charm­ing and had a wild en­ergy about him. Then I re­alised that I ac­tu­ally fan­cied him.

When we got to­gether, I used to be re­ally ner­vous watch­ing him per­form­ing a solo show as the sense of fail­ure in com­edy is so im­me­di­ate. But I re­alised that co­me­di­ans aren’t afraid of fail­ure. They can fail one minute and be back the next.

In the early days, he’d spend a lot of time test­ing ma­te­rial on me; we would have what seemed to be a nat­u­ral con­ver­sa­tion about pol­i­tics, and then he’d slip in a gag. He’s more di­rect about it now. He did one show about our re­la­tion­ship back in 2010 and I guess that’s the risk when you’re with a co­me­dian.

We’ve been to­gether eight years and the ter­ri­ble thing is I never laugh at any­thing now when he tests ma­te­rial on me. I’ve got a re­ally high thresh­old for what is funny now. But then I’ll see him per­form­ing the same joke on stage and it’s hi­lar­i­ous.

When James comes back from a big sched­ule, he has this deep ex­haus­tion that can last sev­eral weeks. He’s the op­po­site to the guy you see on stage. But I’m also a per­former so I un­der­stand it.

He’s re­ally into video gaming, and that’s a way for him to un­wind. I’m not a gamer so I don’t get it. After a big fes­ti­val like Ed­in­burgh, where he’s maybe done 100 per­for­mances in 25 days, he’s ex­hausted.

But I’ve learned that it’s not per­sonal. He just needs time. And the thing about James is that while he’s gaming, he’s also think­ing. He’s al­ways cre­at­ing his next show or his next joke in his head.

In 2011, we started this po­lit­i­cal satire to­gether, Pub­lic Ser­vice An­nounce­ments. He writes it and I di­rect and pro­duce. We fight a lot when we’re work­ing to­gether. It’s not easy. But I think it’s me. He’s pa­tient, and I get stressed and an­gry.

When we cre­ated our pup­pet show, Pulp Fic­tion, in Ed­in­burgh, we were look­ing for a male ac­tor and James agreed to take the role. The funny thing is he was the best ac­tor.

I’ve seen his show, Rukahu, and he does things on stage that I couldn’t do. It’s a scathing mix of com­edy and theatre. I’m go­ing to be do­ing my show around the same time. It’s the scari­est thing for me be­ing solo on stage, but James does it all the time. Be­ing with him has helped me deal with that. JAMES/ Anya is gen­uinely one of the fun­ni­est peo­ple I know. Even though she’s not a co­me­dian.

When I met her, I thought she was in­tel­li­gent and pretty, and that’s what drew me to her.

Anya got the [Welling­ton Theatre Awards] best sup­port­ing ac­tress award for her role as Ngaire [in Hud­son and Halls Live]. You have to un­der­stand that’s a pretty big deal, to get that award for a com­edy role. It all comes so nat­u­rally to her – she’s like Taika [Waititi].

There’s def­i­nitely been some jar­ring. We’re ter­ri­ble work­ing to­gether.

When we did Pub­lic Ser­vice An­nounce­ments, we had to get friends in to di­rect and pro­duce. We needed to in­sti­gate buf­fers be­tween the two of us. There are rules where I’m the writer, and she is di­rect­ing, and we agree that there has to be a cut-off point.

That’s why I don’t act in it, be­cause that’s less of me un­der­cut­ting her by ac­ci­dent.

We just have to learn how to de-stress. She watches TV and I sit there and watch video games.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­comes fun­da­men­tal – it’s like, “Hey I’m in this space”.

We are good sound­ing boards for each other, but we don’t show each other our work. If we do, we ask if the other per­son wants feed­back.

I re­mem­ber one open­ing night she came back and started giv­ing me notes and told me, “Here’s how to fix the show”. She was putting on her writer/di­rec­tor hat.

But Anya has taught me how to share a stage. I’m a stand-up co­me­dian, but thanks to her I’m now a pup­peteer in a play, and I’m an ac­tor and a poet. My mahi [work] wouldn’t be the same with­out her in my life, and that [in­cludes] my show, Rukahu.

Her show My Best Dead Friend is based on the death of her best friend, Ali, who was killed in a car crash.

Ali was one of Anya’s friends who had to sign our re­la­tion­ship off. When Anya and I met, I had to fly down to Dunedin and do a com­edy gig just to per­suade her friends that we should date.

After Ali died, Anya couldn’t work for a cou­ple of years. But the whole show is a beau­ti­ful cel­e­bra­tion of the tight bonds of friend­ship.

My Best Dead Friend, runs July 12-22, Q Theatre, Auck­land. Rukahu runs July 4-8, The Base­ment Theatre, Auck­land.

“I re­mem­ber one open­ing night she came back and started giv­ing me notes and told me, ‘Here’s how to fix the show’. ”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.