Review: James Roque

An easy charm and honesty make Badong a strong debut

comedy review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 23 Aug 2022
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Fest magazine

With one of the least throwaway show titles at the festival, Badong is James Roque's name within his Filipino family. And growing up in New Zealand, it was source of considerable embarrassment to him. Inspired by a hero in one of the creakiest films you've probably never seen, a reminder of the immigrant otherness that set him apart from his white friends, it's the cornerstone of an entertaining show in which Roque lays bare his mixed feelings about being labelled “Asian” by a predominantly Caucasian society.

The big, formative experience here was the time he and a Singaporean friend were paid to portray Malaysian royalty for a posh white couple's vanity project, the glossing of cultural difference causing Roque nagging disquiet. Tracing his journey through school to struggling drama graduate, and more recently, to television personality, he invariably bends over backwards to be fair to the white people he encounters committing micro-aggressions. But with regard to being an Asian “representative” in the public eye, a reluctant spokesperson for a disparate group, he's rather had his fill and asks for greater sensitivity and nuance.

Still, he's had to make some changes in his thinking too, reaching out in a less judgemental spirit, lest he be judged for the privilege in his life. Lacking the hard-nosed edge, sense of outrage and deeper narrative arc that Roque might have ascribed to it, Badong is never prickly, facilitated by his easy charm and honesty, making for a strong if unspectacular Fringe introduction.