Left – Geoff Morell and Tuuli Narkle. Cover – Geoff Morrell and Tony Briggs. Photos – Jeff Busby
Two houses, both alike in dignity…
Arguably the world’s most famous love story, the star crossed lovers of Shakespeare’s tragedy have been the inspiration for future love stories from West Side Story to Bride and Prejudice. Described as a cross between Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Meet the Fockers, Nakkiah Lui’s Black is the New White keeps to Shakespeare’s convention in premise, two upper class families The Gibson’s tribe, led by esteemed Indigenous politician Ray Gibson (Tony Briggs) and matriarch Joan, (Melodie Reynolds-Diarra), the pair prepare to have their family back together for Christmas, in their lush summer house.
Unbeknownst to them, their high achieving daughter Charlotte, (Miranda Tapsell) is bringing her new fiancé Francis, (Tom Stokes) home to meet them, along with Francis’s family, who just happen to be the Gibson’s political rival, Liberal Senator, Dennison Smith, (Geoff Morrell) and his wife, Marie (Vanessa Downing).
Joined by Charlotte’s sister fashion designer Rose (Tuuli Narkle) and her husband Sonny (Anthony Taufa), a former footballer and all round delight, the two families deal with the inevitable fall out as they face their personal and political prejudces. While Black is the New White is a play about the very serious issues of race and class within Australia, Lui has created a hysterical account of a Christmas scenario familiar to us all. Siblings bicker, everybody drinks too much, secrets are revealed and all out battles erupt.
Black is the New White is an absolute joy to watch. The characters are fleshed out, exaggerated versions of reality and the over the top farce of the production had the entire audience giggling in the stalls and standing at the curtain call.
All of these characters and interweaving stories are connected through the Narrator played by Luke Carroll, who’s deliciously camp performance ties the show together. Part hype man, part storyteller, Carroll injected high octane energy into every moment.
There’s not a dull moment in Black is the New White. The combination of Lui’s sparkly writing and Paige Rattray’s cohesive direction ensures Black is the New White is a bright light of joy during the festival season. It’s enjoyable escapism with a deeper undertone, but for the most part simply a really fun production, where the energy is high, the stakes are higher and the laughs are plentiful. If only Romeo and Juliet’s parents could have got together and worked out their differences. It would have made for a much happier ending.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
Black is the New White
by Nakkiah Lui
Director Paige Rattray
Venue: The Summer | Southbank Theatre Melbourne VIC
Dates: 2 October – 9 November 2019