Real Fake White Dirt

Real Fake White Dirt is both the spoken word tirade of New Zealander Jess Holly Bates and an paradox she alludes to that encompasses her life as a post-colonial white girl. “This is a Pakeha identity poem,” she tells us with a pleasantly manic expression, Dave Dobyn’s ‘Slice of Heaven’ fading into the background.

Bate’s delivery in asking these questions is fantastic. Not only does she fill every beat of her 45 minute performance with scarcely a dropped line, but also the entirety of the room with a curious physical presence.

The question Real Fake White Dirt looks to answer is how Pakeha’s, maori slang for white people, can have an identity crisis. Although shot through with the specifics of a country halfway around the world and lingering for the most part in our colonial past, the issues Bates grabs ahold of and shakes around in this one woman show are far reaching. How do we, Kiwi, Briton or simply, loosely Western, reconcile the atrocities of our fore-fathers and mothers with our enlightened, modern selves? Is the guilt complex an unnecessary burden, or are we “the spray tanned indigenous… the daughters of semi-colons,” unable to run from a past that courses through our present?

Bate’s delivery in asking these questions is fantastic. Not only does she fill every beat of her 45 minute performance with scarcely a dropped line, but also the entirety of the room with a curious physical presence. Each gesticulation is as natural in its fluidity as it is immaculately rehearsed and underpinned with a refusal to repeat or waste a movement. The poem at the heart of this performance is equally as engaging. It is a chunky, onomatopoeic piece that bubbles around the room with a Heaney-esque flair; conjuring up a host of dark images as quickly as Bate’s vanquishes them with a prickly sense of humour. If there is a flaw present in this unrestrained tirade, it is a lack in the clarity of thought. At times the thrust is lost underneath a mound of metaphors and allusions to polar bears, slightly obscuring what is otherwise a thought provoking piece. Come with an open mind and expect to be satisfied. 

Reviews by Milo Boyd

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The Blurb

Real Fake White Dirt is fresh, funny and unafraid of faux pas when it comes to those ugly fruits of history. This solo spoken-word show from New Zealand is made using the finest white produce from the tree of post-colonial multiculturalism. Locally bottled, marinated and served with custard, this show spits out seeds on its plate, and does not apologise for the mess. Suffering from a white crisis? Real Fake White Dirt is cringing at your racist grandparents and desperately lying about your heritage. This show is ‘funny, moving, and downright impressive!’ ( An all-authentic appropriation.

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