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Black is the New White : Playhouse QPAC

Home > Brisbane > Theatre Reviews | Theatre | Comedy
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Seriously funny

This is the funniest play I've seen in a long time.

On paper, perhaps it shouldn't be.

Two retired political rivals find themselves in enforced proximity as they celebrate Christmas together in the company of their spouses and children at the insistence of said children who are about to announce their engagement.

We first encounter the rivals in a Twitter battle of words about lettuce. If you thought it was impossible to be self-important about lettuce - you're wrong.

Add to the mix that the "progressive" politician (Ray) is aboriginal, and clearly, as his up-market holiday home would suggest, well-heeled. And that the Conservative politician and custodian of the family Trust Fund (Denison) is less than enamoured with his son's (Francis) incapacity to find a paying job, while clinging to a dream of being an experimental classical cellist. Both political spouses are less than enamoured with the life they have led, and less than fully convinced that their partners are the political giants they would like to think they are.

Enter a narrator (invisible to the cast) who confides in the audience, fleshes out back-stories, flags up-coming confrontations, moves objects around for the cast to find, and leads us in happy-clappy sing and dance-alongs.

Charlotte (the about to be engaged daughter) is an activist lawyer, who, to her father's chagrin, is about to give up the chance of being the female Waleed Aly to take up Postgraduate study in the USA.

So we have a Christmas gathering with people from widely different backgrounds, with animosities close to the surface threatening to explode, with inter-generational tensions simmering and coming to the boil.

Add (spoiler alert) that one of the protagonist's sexuality is not as it seems, and that a DNA test reveals that another's ethnicity is not as it seems and we have a superbly crafted web of confrontations and revelations which gives the playwright the chance to explore class, race, power, and privilege in a way that I haven't experienced in Australia.

And, because this play is also sufficiently self-aware to be able to send itself up, just about every character has a chance to voice a heart-felt credo, while being just moments away from a belly-laugh or a farcical prat-fall.

That's the amazing strength of this play. On the one hand we have searing and wide-ranging indictments of hypocrisies and conflicts, on the other we have food-fights, songs, dances, prat-falls and almost non-stop one-liners that have us roaring with laughter.

Cassie Tongue in "The Guardian" says about Nakkah Lui (the playwright)

"Her writing, whether devastating or hilarious, has always shown a great deal of accessible humanity and relentless intelligence. In this play and its twinkling take on the romcom form, she throws an erratic but big-hearted spotlight on upper-class entitlement and guilt; black identity and pride (and separatism); sexual repression; women's oppression; the responsibility or consequence of success; and, more broadly, the politics of culture and identity."

Bernard Shaw, in his day, showed us that laughter can be a devastating weapon in shattering preconceptions. Nakkah follows in that tradition.

This is a wonderful play – possibly needing just a bit of editing to make it even more effective – but nonetheless ticking just about every box – dialogue, action, comic timing, brilliant setting and without a weak link in the acting.

On paper it may well have seemed over-ambitious.

On stage it works wonderfully.

The audience clearly loved it, and the standing ovation at the end was well deserved.

If you only go to one play this year, this should be the one.


…Generously funny... a bustling, astute and questioning social comedy on identity politics★★★★ - The Sydney Morning Herald

…With pitch-perfect performances all round, it's a thought-provoking, joyously entertaining comedy★★★★ - The Daily Telegraph

…A wonderfully quick-witted, sharp-as-a-tack Australian Rom Com with a lot of heart that keeps the audience laughing – or gasping – all the way." ★★★★½ - Limelight

… Deliciously funny." - The Australian

… Big social issues with a whole heap of goofball" - The Guardian


Black is the New White sold out its world premiere season at Sydney Theatre Company in 2017, a triumph for Queensland Theatre's director Paige Rattray, writer Nakkiah Lui and designer Renée Mulder.

Director Paige Rattray
Designer Renée Mulder
Lighting Designer Ben Hughes
Composer/Sound Composer Steve Toulmin

Cast includes Tony Briggs, Luke Carroll, Vanessa Downing, Geoff Morrell, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra, Shari Sebbens, Tom Stokes, Anthony Taufa and Miranda Tapsell.
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Why? Funniest play for a long time
When: Until 17th Feb
Where: Playhouse QPAC
Cost: $78 - $90
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