‘Black is the New White’ is having its WA Premiere. This extremely funny play for adults was crafted by Aboriginal playwright Nakkiah Lui and commissioned by the Sydney Theatre Company. Nakkiah is still under 30 yrs. old and yet has already proved herself as a comedian, actor and playwright – amazing. Not surprisingly her play has won a Premier’s Award and a Green Room Award for best independent production. Nakkiah is a Gamilaroi, a Torres Strait Islander woman.
Black Swan is presenting this two and a half hour Sydney Theatre Company production at the Heath Ledger Theatre within the State Theatre Centre, Northbridge until Sunday 22nd September. The play had its World Premiere in Sydney in 2017 and was an immediate sell-out, so the season was extended to 2018.
The Set: is an amazing two storey construction (designer: Renée Mulder). The ground floor has an open plan dining area, kitchen and lounge. Being built on a hill, the house has its front door on the first floor, with a small balcony (no bannisters) and a spectacular floating staircase – no stringer or supports – the wide oak steps come straight out of the white wall. There is a landing halfway down the stairs that has a bench window seat; this window looks out directly onto a rocky cliff.
Lighting Designer, Ben Hughes had a massive task lighting such a high and enclosed room – no side lights possible from the wings, but the lighting still covered every cranny and was evenly spread throughout.
Composer and sound designer, Steve Toulmin had to compose classical cello pieces for Francis and a wide range of tunes from dance to Christmas themes.
The scene is set with a hilarious and rousing warmup act by the ‘invisible’ narrator (Luke Carroll).
Law student, Charlotte Gibson (Miranda Tapsell) is a young Aboriginal woman from a wealthy family. Her father Ray (Tony Briggs) is a respect local celebrity and self-made businessman. Her mother is Joan (Melodie Reynolds-Diarra), Ray’s adoring and affectionate wife.
As it is Christmas, Charlotte decides there can be no better time to introduce her long-time boyfriend and about to be fiancé, composer Francis (Tom Stokes). However, over the months Charlotte had ‘forgotten’ to mention that Francis is white. The introduction does not go well. Even when Charlotte’s sister Rose (Kylie Bracknell / Kaarljilba Kaardn) arrives with her hunk of a husband, a rugby superstar named Sonny (Anthony Taufa) the cold atmosphere does not ease.
Charlotte announces to her parents that as it is Christmas, she has invited Francis’ parents along for Christmas Lunch. It seems that her partner’s Dad, Dennison (Geoff Morrell) and his Mum, Marie (Vanessa Downing) may have already met her parents.
Director, Paige Rattray has this show moving at a cracking pace from the very start and does not slow for a second. The madcap cast are perfectly in tune with each other, the expressions priceless and the actions were at times most demanding. The script is outstanding and the delivery remarkable. The pre-warned ‘male nudity’ is the most hilarious nude scene ever – and is amazingly inoffensive.
Every question or comment ever made to an Aboriginal is incorporated into this script. Sidney Poitier’s ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ the Oscar winning film of 1967 had a similar theme but had an acerbic dialogue. This play is generously forgiving whilst driving the point home in the most hilarious manner. The cast let their hair down and came right out of their comfort zones giving the audience a good belly laugh, almost every minute.
Stage manager Natalie Moir and her assistant Vanessa Martin were faced with an Edward Albee style ending. Sorry ladies but your hard work was really worth it.
This show had everyone on their feet at the end in a united standing ovation, coupled with five curtain calls. What more can I say? If you can only afford one play this year, this is it!