Black is the New White opens at Wollongong's IPAC and makes light of dark issues

COMICAL: Indigenous playwright Nakkiah Lui's makes light of dark issues in her new work Black is the New White. Picture: James Brickwood
COMICAL: Indigenous playwright Nakkiah Lui's makes light of dark issues in her new work Black is the New White. Picture: James Brickwood

The first major play to grace the stage of the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre this year makes light of what are usually serious issues.

Black is the New White is a tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy following one family’s reactions to character Charlotte bringing home a “white” man for Christmas dinner.

Esteemed playwright Nakkiah Lui said she respects and is proud there are so many Indigenous works around but noted they are often in retrospect, and with this play she wanted to create something that was “joyous”.

“I just wanted to write a comedy that an audience could watch and engage with, a family that was like them who just happened to be aboriginal,” Ms Lui said.

“I wanted to engage things like race and politics, gender, sexism, baby boomers and millennials and I wanted to do that in a really funny way.”

The Cast of Black is the New White in Sydney Theatre Company’s Production of Black is the New White. Picture: Prudence Upton

The Cast of Black is the New White in Sydney Theatre Company’s Production of Black is the New White. Picture: Prudence Upton

The central character Charlotte is played by Shari Sebbens. She’s a lawyer whose father believes she could be the next female Indigenous Waleed Aly. But she has other ideas – it’s Christmas and she is in love.

Her unemployed “experimental composer” fiancé (Tom Stokes) is not what her family expected – and he’s white. The dinner invitation proves a bold move by Charlotte resulting in unexpected consequences.

Ms Lui said Christmas was the perfect setting to bring up “human issues” like race and protocol because she believes the dinner table is often where heated discussions are shared.

“At Christmas time people drink a lot, they eat a lot, they love a lot and they argue a lot. It’s the people who know you the most who can also get under your skin the most,” she said.

“Most of the time when we talk about that kind of stuff we talk about it with our families over the dinner table.”

Luke Carroll, Tony Briggs and Melodie Reynolds-Diarra in Sydney Theatre Company’s Production of Black is the New White. Picture: Prudence Upton

Luke Carroll, Tony Briggs and Melodie Reynolds-Diarra in Sydney Theatre Company’s Production of Black is the New White. Picture: Prudence Upton

The work kicks off a colourful and diverse program curated for Merrigong Theatre Company in 2018. Also on the cards are a sexy circus cabaret, a live horror production, a play presented in Arabic, and the much loved musical Calamity Jane.

Black is the New White, IPAC, February 21 -24. Ticket information via: www.merrigong.com.au