***** 5 Stars
If you want to see the best comedy to hit Perth this year, you must see “Black is the New White” by Nakkiah Lui. Black Swan State Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company present this multi-award-winning production which only has a limited season in Perth, showing until Sunday 22nd September.
Lui has created a wonderful tapestry of familiar scenes of the family Christmas that suddenly reveal astonishing secrets and moments of surprise from these quirky yet recognisable characters.
The setting, beautifully designed by Renée Mulder, is the Gibson family holiday home. Father, Ray, an Aboriginal politician and his wife Joan are living a comfortable upper-middle class life and still have a spark in the bedroom. They are unaware that their daughter, high profile lawyer, Charlotte is engaged to a white man, Francis Smith who plays the cello and is an experimental classical composer. Charlotte and Francis have decided to tell the family at the Christmas festivities, along with Francis’ parents who are slow to arrive at the gathering. When the Smiths arrive all hell breaks loose as the fathers have a long, bitter history across the political divide.
The play is a wonderful love-letter to theatre and storytelling, taking audiences on a joyful and hilarious ride that is expertly directed by Paige Rattray. Rattray has taken this brilliant script to new heights by facilitating detailed and nuanced individual performances with believable relationships. Though it is the actors who seamlessly deliver on the night. Narrator Luke Carroll exudes energy, joy, charm and cheek in equal measure. Carroll’s unique stage presence is contagious and awe-inspiring. Tony Briggs and Melodie Reynolds-Diarra as husband and wife have a delightful chemistry and each actor brings all of their physical and emotional prowess to their roles.
Equally, Geoff Morrell and Vanessa Downing as the Smiths deliver outstanding performances that fully embody their characters. Newly-weds Rose and Sonny Jones, played by Kylie Bracknell and Anthony Taufa, share a synergy that is often mesmerising, and individual skilled performances. Miranda Tapsell and Tom Stokes as newly engaged couple Charlotte Gibson and Francis Smith bring the ‘warm and fuzzies’ as they try to navigate their relationship around the turmoil of the family get-together. Tapsell has an innate jubilant demeanour that is a pleasure to watch. Stokes is an incredible performer whose ease with physical comedy is perfectly matched and executed in this production.
Don’t miss this production – it is the best comedy of the year!
“Black is the New White” is only showing until Sunday 22nd September 2019 at the Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre, Perth.
Recommended 16+, Adult themes, strong language, nudity and drug use.
Photo credits Prudence Upton and Toni Wilkinson