Review: Black is the New White

Who: State Theatre Company
What: Black is the New White
When: 13 November – 1 December
Where: Dunstan Playhouse
Tickets: here

Tom Stokes and Miranda Tapsell. Photo: Toni Wilkinson

Nakkiah Lui’s smash hit Black is the New White has finally come to Adelaide and you’d better believe it lives up to the hype. Charlotte Gibson (Miranda Tapsell) is a hot shot lawyer whose famous dad thinks she could become the Indigenous Waleed Aly. Francis Smith (Tom Stokes) is a White experimental classical composer, but thinks his dad doesn’t love him. They could be considered poorly suited, but what does it matter when they’re in love? They bring their families together to meet for Christmas, bringing old and new prejudices to life.

Narrated by the very charming and self-appointed Spirit of Christmas, Luke Carroll, the two families meet in the Gibson family holiday home. As you’d expect on a nice family get together, tensions run high. Joan (Melodie Reynolds-Diarra), Charlotte’s mum, is just happy to have the family together. Charlotte and Francis’ dads (Tony Briggs and Geoff Morrell) are enemies. Rose (Tuuli Narkle) and Sonny (Anthony Toufa), Charlotte’s sister and brother-in-law, are going through some shit. And what is the deal with Marie (Vanessa Downing), Francis’ mum? It’s a recipe for disaster in the best way possible.

Tony Briggs and Melodie Reynols-Diarra. Photo: Prudence Upton

With a cast chocker block full of high performers, there is no stand out. The chemistry between the actors is contagious. It’s not often you get both sharp one liners and potato salad shooting across the room, at the same time managing to deal with the complex issues of community and what it means to be family.

Black is the New White is tight and fast through to the interval. The lights go on and I feel dazed. The second half isn’t quite as hard hitting, but it still leaves me speechless. In an Australia that is currently so divided, Lui’s play is a breath of fresh air. She’s a voice we need to hear more from.

Anthony Taufa and Luke Carroll. Photo: Prudence Upton

Lui expertly navigates the minefields of race, class, identity, and power in a very Australian way. It’s a serious play that doesn’t take itself seriously; it’s hard hitting with enough awkward jokes to make you groan and snort. It’s all I could ask from what should be considered a contemporary Australian classic. Black is the New White is something that everyone should see.

5 out of 5 stars

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