Farce and furious, Nakkiah Lui’s seriously side splitting BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE is now published, so audiences who relished seeing it on stage can now revisit this comic gem in print form.
Race is front and centre in BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE wrapped in an intelligent rom com package.
In a Guess Who’s coming To Dinner race reversal, sharp legal practitioner Charlotte brings home her affianced, meek musician, Francis, to meet her folks, Ray and Joan, Aboriginal activists now settled into a comfy middle class affluence.
Also in attendance is Charlotte’s sister Rose and her husband, Sonny.
It’s Christmas, but both Ray and Rose are definitely not dreaming of a white Christmas.
Further strain is applied to the occasion by the invitation to, and reluctant acceptance of, Francis’ parents, Dennison and Marie, white middle class conservatives.
What ensues is a festive season frisson where secrets, lies, and inconvenient truths surface in a rollicking fusion of ethics, ethnicity, race, culture, gender, sexuality, music and dance.
Lui’s script sparkles with acute personality and social observation, measured malapropism, affectionate nod to rom com tropes and all the fun and frenzy of food fight.
Charlotte is a champion character, juggling a journey arc that navigates pre nuptial euphoria with filial disaffection. Her falling for the awfully awkward Francis, who takes his foot from his mouth only to use it as a shovel to dig a deeper hole, is endearingly true to rom com tropes because it is true to life.
Ray and Joan are wonderful as the oil and water couple, he brash and self centred – “Ray, you’re giving your ego a hard on” admonishes Joan after a speechifying tirade – while she is centred and openly embracing.
Again, Lui depicts the opposites attract and compliment truth of human relationships.
Ray’s Martin Luther King complex blinds him to Joan’s colossal contribution to his success on the political stage, a success based on Joan’s speech-writing prowess.
Charlotte is much closer to her mother in temperament and personality, whereas Rose is the strident anti Colonial clone of her father, a fashionista with a racial purity agenda. Her affable hubby, Sonny, is the epitome of his character’s name, sharing the same philanthropic values as Charlotte.
Francis’ parents are a comic treat -Dennison is a stitched up white bred, white bread emotion-phobe whose neglect of wife and son are coming home to roost, while Marie is fey and deftly daffy,on her own Road to Damascus and character epiphany.
There’s a cheeky Puckishness in the device of Narrator, a singular chorus of background briefing and astute observance.
BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE is a joyous, jolly jape with some gentle jabs and a knock out delivery.
BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE by Nakkiah Lui is published by Allen & Unwin