Nakkiah Lui has made a name for herself in the field of comedy with an Indigenous flair. With the success of Black Comedy and Kiki and Kitty on the ABC, Nakkiah has established herself as an endlessly creative force in the national comedy scene.
Nakkiah continues to produce insightful and hilarious stage plays with the likes of Blak Cabaret, Power Plays and Blaque Showgirls gracing the theatres of Sydney to astounding acclaim. Continuing her hot streak, Lui created the play Black is the New White which made a splash in Sydney in 2017. Since then it has made a successful return run in Sydney as well as a month long run in Melbourne before making a stop at our own Festival Theatre.
Black is the New White is a new endeavour for Lui. Just as side-splitting as her best work, Black is the New White delves into racial identity and politics from many different angles. Charlotte Gibson (Miranda Tapsell) is the daughter of famous aboriginal politician Ray Gibson (Tony Briggs). She arrives at her families holiday home alongside her fiancé Francis Smith (Tom Stokes) who himself is the son of Ray’s long time political rival Dennison Smith (Geoff Morrel). Things escalate as the two parents come head to head and a raucous and chaotic Christmas lies ahead.
The show itself starts off slowly. Establishing the characters, the narrator (Luke Carroll), and the situation they find themselves in. Unfolding like any other Christmas family comedy albeit a sprinkling of racial and political philosophy. It doesn’t take long though before things heat up, with too rivals in the house at each others throats while Charlotte and her sister Rose (Tuuli Narkle) clash with differing ideas of what it means to be indigenous. This is where the show starts to change gears.
There a lot of ideas and musings on racial ideologies within Black is the New White and it doesn’t pull its punches in their strong and thoughtful delivery yet at the same time, Lui’s speciality is in comedy and she still keeps the laughs coming all the while. The result is a roller coaster of emotions as each character and each relationship dynamic comes to a head. Mood in the theatre ebbs and flows from roaring laughter to silent tension. The way Lui and cast can go back and forth between these to states is absolutely artistic. An excellent way to deliver what is sometimes heavy material while holding the audiences hand and taking them for a journey.
This is Nakkiah Lui in form, possibly her best work to date. Having always been about shining a light on Indigenous culture she has crafted a way to have audiences think on cultural identity, entitlement, identity politics, racism and more while laughing your hardest. That may sound somewhat odd but all I can say is check it out for yourself and you’ll see this is both entertaining and important.
Black is the New White is showing at the Dunstan Playhouse at Adelaide Festival Centre between the 13th of November and 1st of December.
Words by Jonathon Tonkin