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Black is the New White

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by Kiesten McCauley (subscribe)
My early career was in teaching, writing, producing and directing for theatre, comedy and impro shows. Now I'm a professional creative person. Mostly high-end branding, strategy, writing, editing and digital content creation.
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A play in which tragedy is the new comedy
shari, sebbens, black, new, white, play, queensland, theatre, brisbane
Anthony Taufa, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra and Shar Sebbens photo courtesy of STC and QT

If the silly season has left you in need of a good laugh at a great, Aussie show, Queensland Theatre has your tonic. They're kicking off what's going to be a red-hot 2018 season with a real corker in the form of Black is the New White. It's already enjoyed a blisteringly successful season in Sydney, where audiences were laughing so hard they could barely catch their breath.

The Story

"Black is the New White is a great rom com but it's also a really insightful new story about identity and aspiration," says Artistic Director for Queensland Theatre, Sam Strong.

Charlotte Gibson is a young, successful aboriginal lawyer riding the wave of a whirlwind romance that's seen her quickly engaged. Her fiancé is an unemployed, experimental classical composer living on a trust fund. She's recently made her family extremely proud by winning a landmark native title case, in part due to a law put in place by her ex-politician father. But the family's not at all impressed to find her new, white fiancé's father is her own dad's worst political rival. So when the families get together at the Gibson's for Christmas, the turkey sure does hit the fan.

It's been described as a cross between Meet the Fockers, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Family Stone. Old feuds come to a head, family skeletons are dragged out of the cupboard and hypocrisies are held up to ridicule. Also, there's a food fight. I would seriously buy tickets on the strength of that alone.

shari, sebbens, black, new, white, play, queensland, theatre, brisbane
Shari Sebbens plays Charlotte Gibson

The Themes

If you're the sort of theatre goer who enjoys going a little deeper into the messages, themes and sub-text of a play, Black is the New White will give you plenty of thought-provoking moments. The show explores themes of class, privilege, race and politics. In particular, it looks at the pressures placed upon people to be examples for others when they've been successful, especially when they come from a community that's been highly politicised. It also investigates relationships, love and family in a play that is packed full of feelings of hope and happiness amid the chaos and bickering.

shari, sebbens, black, new, white, play, queensland, theatre, brisbane
Tickets are selling fast for Black is the New White

The Writing

Playwright Nakkiah is hailed as one of Australia's hottest artist-commentators. She says, "I wanted to write something that didn't come from a place of sorrow or death or from oppression where you'd have to rehash that intergenerational trauma."

So while there might be some heavy themes in the play, you're not likely to leave with a heavy heart. If performances in Sydney are anything to go by, you might leave with a sore face and belly from laughing so hard.

Black is the New White director Paige Rattray says of Nakkiah, she's "A playwright and social commentator who also happens to be aboriginal and that informs a lot of the work that she's been doing."

"A big part of what Nakkiah is mining from within herself is what it means to be a middle-class aboriginal person, what it means to be an aboriginal leader or a successful aboriginal person – the pressure on people who have been successful is huge."

Rave Reviews

Black is the New White sold out its world premiere season in Sydney in 2017. It received plenty of great reviews too.

"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. ★★★★˝ "- Limelight

Word on the street says tickets are already selling fast. So if you're keen to see this one, it would be wise to book now, otherwise you might miss out on the hottest theatre ticket in Brisbane this February.

BitNW Quick Facts

1 to 17 February at the Playhouse, QPAC
Cast includes: Tony Briggs, Luke Carroll, Vanessa Downing, Geoff Morrell, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra, Shari Sebbens, Tom Stokes, Miranda Tapsall, Anthony Taufa
Director: Paige Rattray
Writer: Nakkiah Lui
Designer: Renee Mulder
Lighting Designer: Ben Hughes
Composer/Sound Designer: Steve Toulmin
TICKETS: 1800 355 528 or
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Why? Enjoy a Riotously Funny Rom-Com
When: 01-17 February 2018
Phone: (07) 3010 7600
Where: Playhouse, QPAC
Cost: $56 plus booking fees, some discounts available for groups and concessions
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